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Reflections for the II Sunday

Fr. Antony Kadavil reflects and comments on the readings at Mass for the second Sunday in ordinary time. He says that Jesus reveals his Divine power by his first miracle.

Is 62: 1-5; I Cor 12: 4-11, John 2: 1-11 (L-16)

Central theme:   This week we are at a wedding in Cana where Jesus reveals his Divine power by his first miracle, transforming water into wine. The Bible begins with one wedding, that of Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 2:23-24), and ends with another, the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9, 21:9, 22:17). Throughout the Bible, marriage is the symbol of the Covenant relationship between God and His chosen people.   God is the faithful Groom and humanity is His beloved bride.  Let us pray for God’s daily miracles in our families.

Homily starter anecdote: “Make sure you invite Jesus and Mary!"  Johnny Carson (who hosted the Tonight Show for 30 years), was interviewing an eight-year-old boy one night.  The young man was asked to appear on the Late Show because he had rescued two friends from a coal mine outside his hometown in West Virginia.  As Johnny questioned him, it became apparent that the boy was a Christian.   Johnny asked him if he attended Sunday school.  When the boy said he did, Johnny inquired, "What are you learning in Sunday school?"  "Last week,” the boy replied, “our lesson was about how Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine." The audience burst into laughter and applause.   Keeping a straight face, Johnny asked, "And what did you learn from that story?"   The boy squirmed in his chair.   It was apparent he hadn't thought about this. But then he lifted up his face and said, "If you're going to have a wedding, make sure you invite Jesus and Mary!"  And that is precisely the message of today’s Gospel: make sure you invite Jesus and Mary wherever you live and wherever you go – they are the only ones you'll ever need.   In other words, today's Gospel lesson is about the sufficiency of Christ in our lives and the power of his Mother’s intercession.

Introduction:  This is a season of "epiphanies,” in which the Liturgy shows us God’s revelation of Jesus as the Messiah to the shepherds, the Magi, King Herod, John the Baptist and those gathered around John at the Jordan.  This week we are at a wedding where Jesus reveals his Divine power by his first miracle. Pope St. John Paul II gave us a beautiful gift when he introduced the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. The second mystery is the subject of today’s Gospel, the Wedding Feast at Cana where Jesus changed water into wine. The miracle at Cana is the first of seven “signs” in John’s Gospel - miraculous events by which Jesus showed forth his Divinity.Jesus, his mother and his disciples were guests at the wedding feast.  When the wine "ran short," Jesus’ mother told him about it.  At first Jesus seemed to refuse to do anything about it. But later he told the servants to fill six large stone jars with water and take some to the headwaiter.  When they did so, the water had become wine, better wine than that which had run out. The Bible begins with one wedding, that of Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 2:23-24), and ends with another, the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9, 21:9, 22:17). Throughout the Bible, marriage is the symbol of the Covenant relationship between God and His chosen people.   God is the Groom and humanity is His beloved bride.  We see this beautifully reflected in today's first reading, where Isaiah uses the metaphor of spousal love to describe God’s love for Israel. God’s fidelity to his people is compared to a husband’s fidelity to his wife. The prophet reminds his people that their God rejoices in them as a Bridegroom rejoices in His Bride and that He will rebuild Israel, if they will be reconciled to Him and repair their strained relationship with Him.     By our Baptism, each of us has been betrothed to Christ as a bride to her Groom (II Cor. 11:2).   In today’s second reading, St. Paul reminds us that the new wine that Jesus pours out for us is the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to his bride. Jesus’ first sign at Cana and Paul’s advice to the Corinthians challenge us to become more sensitive to the many signs of God’s power and glory around us, to open our eyes and hearts to perceive them as coming from God and to give glory to God for them.

First reading:  Is 62: 1-5, explained: The reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah suggests one possible meaning for Jesus’ first sign at Cana.  Here, Isaiah predicts God’s salvation of Jerusalem and visualizes it as a wedding between God and Jerusalem.  After reminding the exiles who have returned from Babylon that their forced departure from their homeland and subsequent detainment in Babylon was the just punishment for their disobedience to God, Isaiah gives them the assurance that their God is now wholly with them. Through their infidelities, the Chosen People and their land earned the names “Forsaken” and “Desolate” (v. 4). But God is a faithful partner and offers them a vision of restoration. Forgiven and rehabilitated, Israel will be restored to her status as the espoused and beloved of God. Those who were scorned and mocked by the nations will be   called Hephzibah (My Delight) and Beulah (Espoused).  Jesus’ provision of abundant wine for the wedding feast in Cana (120 to 180 gallons of it), signifies that the day foreseen by Isaiah has arrived. By our Baptism, each of us has been betrothed to Christ as a bride to her Groom (II Cor. 11:2).  

Second reading: I Cor 12: 4-11, explained: Paul reminds the members of the Corinthian community that each of them is endowed by the Holy Spirit with distinctive gifts. All the charisms are really signs of the Holy Spirit’s activity and point to the glory of Jesus and his Heavenly Father. Since the Holy Spirit is the very Life of God, the outpouring of the Spirit and His charisms upon us who believe in Jesus is a participation in the Life of God.   In addition, each gift has been given for the sake and well-being of others in the family of believers and in order to bear witness to God’s power and glory.  There are many gifts but only one Giver; there are different gifts but only one goal, i.e., the common good of the whole believing community. Hence, we must use our gifts in such a way as to build up, protect and nourish the ties that bind us in Christ, because we are united to God as in a marital relationship. Espoused to God, we are bound also to one another, much as “in-laws” are interlinked through loving familial bonds. In the context of today’s Gospel report of the wedding at Cana, Paul is telling spouses to accept each other as God’s gifts to one another.

Gospel exegesis:  The setting for the miracle:  Christ’s first miracle, which John refers to as a “sign,” takes place in the village of Cana in Galilee. The hometown of the disciple Nathaniel but an otherwise insignificant town, Cana was located some eight miles northeast of Nazareth.  This miracle is the first in John’s series of seven signs by which Jesus manifested his power and glory during his public ministry. Presumably, the "disciples" who accompanied Jesus were Andrew, Simon Peter,Zebedee’s sons James and John, Philip, and Nathaniel.   Jesus’ mother Mary was also present.  Joseph is not mentioned in the story; he may well have died already. It is also possible that Mary was in some way related to the bride or groom and may have been serving as an assistant to the wedding director. According to a version recounted in the Coptic Gospels, the bridegroom was Simon of Cana, Jesus’ disciple and the brother of Jacob and Judah.  He was the son of Joseph’s brother Cleophas(Helpai) and Mary’s elder sister, and, hence, the nephew of both Mary and Joseph.  Such weddings usually began on Wednesdays with the celebration lasting for seven days.  During this period, guests arrived each day bringing gifts and participating in the joy of the occasion.  In verse 3, we read that, in the course of the celebration, “the wine ran short.”  This was a difficult situation for the young couple, and may indicate that they came from poor families. Among the Jews of that time, wine was not only considered a staple food item, but was also frequently used in times of celebration.   To run short of wine at a wedding feast was certainly a serious problem, particularly damaging to the reputation of the host and an ill omen for the newly-married couple.

Mary’s intervention: When Mary pointed out the problem to Jesus, his reply seems, on the surface, to be a bit sharp.  This, however, is to misunderstand the passage.   Although Jesus addressed his mother as "Woman" or "Dear Woman,” the term was roughly equivalent to our word “lady” or "madam", and was not, in itself, unnecessarily harsh.    It was, in fact, a term of respect and is the same word Jesus used when he addressed his mother from the cross, saying of John, “Woman, behold your Son.”  Jesus' next words are also easily misunderstood.   He asked Mary, ”What is it to me and to you?"  This implies no rudeness on Jesus’ part. Probably, it means, "We are guests, and guests are not expected to supply the things needed at a feast."   Jesus further protested, “My hour has not yet come,” The “hour” of Jesus includes his passion, death, Resurrection and exaltation taken as one great event. In spite of Jesus’ detachment from the problem, Mary instructed the waiters, “Do whatever He tells you,” showing Faith that her son would do what the newlyweds and their families really needed. The Church uses the account of this miracle to remind us that, by virtue of her position as the Mother of God and our Heavenly mother, Mary's intercession for us with God has great power.

Symbolic meaning of the miracle as seen by the Fathers of the Church: The love of God is manifested at its most powerful in the love between husband and wife, in marriages that are sacraments, in marriages in which Christ is the always-present Wedding Guest. As ministers of the marriage sacrament, husbands and wives, in their love for one another, mirror for all of us the great love of God in our midst. The symbols used and their meaning:  1) The fruit of the vine is used in the Old Testament as an emblem of the joy associated with the Messianic age and a gift and blessing of God (Deut. 7:13; Prov. 3:10, Psalm 105:). The water in the jars represents the old order of Jewish law and custom (Jeremiah 31:12, Hosea 14:7, Amos 9:13), which Jesus was to replace with something better, namely his sweet and inspiring Gospel.   2) The fact that the abundant wine (120 gallons) provided by Christ was of such superior quality and taste also reveals the glory, satisfaction, sufficiency, and lavishness of the grace, Divine Life, He provides to sinners. Since it is God Who provides, we will lack nothing; however, He requires that we give Him all that we have.  There are three steps found in the text which lead us to the sufficiency of Christ:  a) Ask God for help (v 3). b) Obey His commands (v 7-8). c) Expect Him to be glorified as He provides (v 11).     3) Mary’s comments, “They have no wine” (v. 3) and “Do whatever He tells you” (v. 5), can be understood as a reflection on the barrenness of the Jewish purification rituals and as a directive to look to Jesus as the new means of salvation. 4) The new wine made by Jesus signifies the "new rich wine" of the Gospel and it points to the “wine of the New Covenant” and the “Bread of Life” which Jesus provides for his disciples in the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist. The wine that Jesus had to offer, i.e., his words and works, was far superior to any other teaching or wisdom. This first sign is the manifestation of the grace and truth that has come through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:17), and serves as a summons to us all to join in the celebration. It also points to the Messianic banquet; which Jesus will provide at the end of the age when He comes again in glory

Life messages: 1) Let us, “invite Jesus and Mary to remain with us in our homes.”  St. John Mary Vianney suggests this as the solution for many of our family problems.   He used to encourage parents to create an atmosphere of prayer, Bible-reading, mutual love and respect and sacrificial service at home so that the presence of Jesus and Mary might be perpetually enhanced and experienced in the family.

2) Let us obey the command of Mary, "Do whatever He tells you."   This is the only command given by Mary recorded in the New Testament, and it is a prerequisite for miracles in our families.  The Bible tells us how to do the will of God and effect salvific changes in our daily lives.

3) We need to learn to appreciate the miracles of God's providence in our lives. God, often as an uninvited guest in our families, works daily miracles in our lives by protecting us from physical and moral dangers, providing for our needs, inspiring us and strengthening us with His Holy Spirit.

 4) Just as Jesus filled the empty water jars with wine, let us fill the empty hearts around us with love.   By the miracle of Cana, Jesus challenges us to enrich the empty lives of those around us with the new wine of love, mercy, concern and care.

5) Let us appreciate the miracle of the Real Presence of the Lord on the altar.  The same Jesus, who transformed water into wine at Cana, transforms our gifts of bread and wine into his own Body and Blood in order to give us spiritual nourishment.  If our families have lost the savor of mutual love, let us renew them at the altar with the invigorating power of the Holy Spirit. (prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil)

03 January 2019, 11:02