Father Donald Senior, CP

Jan. 16: Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Not your cousin's wedding!

Is 62:1-5; Ps 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Jn 2:1-11

Following upon last Sunday’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we now plunge into ordinary time in the church’s liturgical calendar. Sunday after Sunday, up until Lent and the Easter season, the readings will track Jesus’ public ministry, mainly drawn from Luke’s Gospel. But for this Sunday, the church chooses John’s account of the first act of Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus and his disciples, along with his mother, attend a wedding feast in the small Galilean village of Cana. On one level, this is an enticing human story. Mary notes that the wine is running out and is aware that in the small village culture of Cana, this will be an acute embarrassment for the newlywed couple.

 So Mary turns to her son and pleads for help: “They have no wine.”  And then a happy ending — Jesus turns water into fine wine (180 gallons of it!). The newlywed couple is not shamed before the home crowd, and everyone can go home more than content!

But nothing is that simple in John’s Gospel. One commentator quotes an Indian proverb to characterize John’s account: “A Gospel in which a child can wade and an elephant can drown.”

That is true here, for sure. Behind the attractive human-interest level of this story stands a deeper symbolism which no doubt led John to choose this story as the “beginning of Jesus’ signs” that reveal “his glory.”

First of all, a wedding evokes one of the Bible’s recurring images of God’s relationship to Israel. The first reading for today from the prophet Isaiah is one beautiful example: “For the Lord delights in you and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you, and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you.”

Astounding as it might seem, the love of the almighty and transcendent God for his people can be compared to the rush of love between newlyweds. Another prophet, Hosea, dared to compare the relationship of the Lord to Israel as a betrayed marriage — yet God loves Israel despite her infidelity. In the advent of Jesus, John suggests, that ancient love affair is rekindled as Jesus begins his mission in Galilee.

Another biblical symbol tucked into this inaugural scene is that of abundant wine. The Scriptures compare God’s ultimate embrace of Israel as a heavenly banquet, as in Isaiah 25: “On this holy mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines … [and] will wipe away the tears from all faces. On that day it will be said, ‘Indeed this is our God; we looked to him, and he saved us … let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us.’” 

And there is yet more in the Cana story. The interchange between Mary and Jesus is enigmatic. Jesus at first seems to rebuff his mother’s plea: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” Literally in Greek, Jesus’ words seem to deflect Mary’s motherly request: “Woman, what is there between you and me?” 

The reference to “my hour” in John’s language refers to the death of Jesus on the cross which in this Gospel is seen as the fullest expression of God’s love revealed in Jesus: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” At that “hour” of Jesus’ death, Mary will reappear in John’s Gospel, taking up her role not only as the mother of Jesus but joining the beloved disciple as a member of his discipleship community — those fully attuned to God’s will.

Mary’s words at Cana anticipate this Gospel perspective: “Do whatever he tells you.” For John’s Gospel, Mary models the proper response to the one who is the Word of God incarnate. Prompted by Mary’s trust, Jesus transforms water into wine — the first of his acts of love that will transform the world.

A good way to start ordinary time: God’s love revealed in vibrant human images. The heart of discipleship is revealed in attentiveness to God’s Word exemplified by Mary, the mother of Jesus.


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