Second Sunday -Ordinary time- Year C
– 20th January 2019-
Gospel reading: John 2:1-11
vs.1 There was a wedding in Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there,
vs.2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited.
vs.3 When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
vs.4 Jesus said, “Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.”
vs.5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
vs.6 There were six stone jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews; each could hold twenty to thirty gallons.
vs.7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim.
vs.8 “Draw some out now” he told them “and take it to the steward.”
vs.9 They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from – only the servants who had drawn the water knew – the steward called the bridegroom
vs.10 and said, “People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now.”
vs.11 This was the first of the signs given by Jesus; it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.
We have four commentators available from whom you may wish to choose .
Michel DeVerteuil : A Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, director of the Centre of Biblical renewal .
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical Theology, University of Wales, Lampeter.
Sean Goan: Studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and teaches at Blackrock College and works with Le Chéile
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger and National Director of The Apostleship of Prayer.
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels
Sunday in the liturgy is always “the first day of the week,” so since Ordinary Time starts on the Monday after the Epiphany, this Sunday is called the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time. We might expect to start immediately with the continuous reading from the Synoptic Gospel for the year, which characterises Ordinary Time. However, liturgical custom dictates otherwise: on this Sunday each year we meditate on a passage from the first chapters of St John’s gospel. It is as if the Church is reluctant to say farewell to the Christmas season – or perhaps reluctant to leave St John, since we have been reading from his gospel on the weekdays of Christmas.
On this Sunday of Year C we read the story of the Wedding Feast of Cana. As always with readings from St John, we take for granted that the passage is deeply symbolical, and so we can be very creative in our interpretation. By calling Jesus’ action a “sign” – the word this gospel always uses to refer to his miracles – the text invites us to see it as a living lesson leading us to understand God’s saving work in Jesus.
We celebrate God’s work from two points of view: as its beneficiaries, and as those called to collaborate with him in bringing it to fulfillment.
We can identify three aspects of the story:
– the miracle;
– how Jesus came to be involved;
– the intercessory power of Mary.
1. The miracle of Cana is the transformation of water into “the best wine”. What was colourless and bland becomes colourful and sparkling, a source of joy and energy.
Though we are free to apply the story to any experience of transformation, it is highly significant that the water was “meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews” ; this is a transformation of religion, therefore – it had become bland, selfcentered, focused on personal purity, now it is renewed and brings joy into the world.
It is a common theme of the gospels that Jesus’ mission was to transform the religion of his time and make it more human – the sabbath is for human beings, not human beings for the sabbath. In Jesus’ parables the kingdom is often compared to a wedding feast; when the Pharisees complained that Jesus’ disciples did not fast, he answered that “the bridegroom was with them”; in contrast with John the Baptist, Jesus “comes eating and drinking.”
Another significant aspect of the miracle is that Jesus starts with the water that was there. This is a “sign” – the work of redemption, unlike creation, does not create out of nothing.
2.The was St John tells the story, Jesus chose to work the miracles as the conclusion of a personal journey in four stages:
a) Mary draws his attention to the need;
b) Jesus refuses to get involved on two counts,
– “Why turn to me?” (in the more common version, “What is that to me and to you?”
– “My hour has not yet come”.
c) Mary tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says;
d) Jesus gets involved.
Scholars have offered different interpretations of Jesus’ journey. As always, personal experience is our most reliable guide. We can see the journey as the movement by which people of faith are led by God to enter into a new commitment, a new “hour” of grace, requiring a higher degree of self-giving.
3. Again starting with experience, we can see Mary as “the woman” – either within the human community or within each person. She is the compassionate one, sensitive to the needs of those around her, and sensitive also to the journey that Jesus must make, challenging him and yet leaving him free.
Lord, we thank you for times when, by a movement of grace,
we enter into a new level of commitment:
– begin praying more contemplatively;
– are reconciled with someone who has hurt us or our families;
– join a movement working for social change;
– enter a religious community;
– leave a secure job in order to serve the poor.
It always seems to happen suddenly.
We are doing things as we always have,
relating with family, friends and fellow workers as before.
When we hear that the people around us have no wine
we see no reason why they should turn to us;
like Jesus, we say, “My hour has not come yet.”
Then you send Mary into our lives,
someone who feels the pain of those around her,
someone who knows us so well that she perceives
that we are more ready to get involved than we realise.
She tells those around to trust us
and then leaves us to do things in our own way and at our own time.
Through some mysterious change of heart,
which neither others nor we ourselves can explain,
we find ourselves taking charge of the situation and answering the need,
transforming water into wine.
Your grace within us is revealed to others – and to ourselves.
“In Jerusalem, this holy city of three mighty religions,
no one seems to have the faith to make the peaceful decision.” …David Rudder, calypsonian
Lord, the different religions of the world have as their special role
to preserve the vision of the world as a great wedding feast where
– ancient enemies are reconciled,
– ethnic groups work in harmony,
– human beings and nature are one,
– there is no more dualism between humanity and divinity.
But so often, when we find ourselves in a situation of conflict,
our groups act as if this is not our concern.
Like the water jars at the wedding feast of Cana,
which were meant for the ablutions that were customary among the Jews,
our observances become a matter of preserving our identity
and of keeping ourselves pure, cleansing ourselves
from what we consider the contamination of the world around us.
We pray that you will send us religious leaders like Jesus
who will transform our faith into a source of joy and vitality,
so that the men and women of our time will experience
that the religions of the world have kept their best wine till now.
“A time will come when we will once again be called so to utter the Word of God that the world will be changed and renewed by it. It will be a new language, perhaps quite non-religious, but liberating and redeeming.” ..Dietrich Bonhoffer
Lord, the preaching of your Word in our Church has so lost its power
that we are surprised when our contemporaries turn to us in their need.
We pray that the hour of grace will come
when the water which our preaching has become
will be transformed into delightful refreshing wine.
“We must find the courage to leave our temples and enter into the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with human suffering.”...Buddhist saying
Lord, the hour always comes for your Church when, like Jesus at the wedding feast of Cana, we listen to the women among us and respond to the needs of the world.
“Night is our diocese and silence is our ministry, poverty is our charity and helplessness our tongue-tied sermon.” …Thomas Merton
Lord, give us the courage to come before you like Mary before Jesus,
Saying simply, “They have no wine,” and leaving the rest to you.
“The days are coming when harvest will follow directly after ploughing, the treading of grapes soon after sowing, when the mountains will run with new wine and the hills all flow with it.” …Amos 9:13
Lord, your will is that the whole world should be a place of abundance
for the whole human family.
Yet Mary’s words to Jesus at the wedding feast of Cana
are echoing in many countries today.
Men and women have no wine to share with their families,
since the wine which nature provided for the festivals has all gone,
plundered by the modern economy, industrial estates and misdirected projects.
Forgive us that so often our Church says to them, “Why turn to us?”
We pray that like Jesus we will be moved to listen to the pain of your people
so that the hour of grace may come when we will work with them
to discover the untapped sources of abundance among them,
and from the water jars standing there
they will draw out gallons of the best wine,
they will see your glory and believe in you.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew
Introduction to the Celebration
This is the time of year when we start new endeavours. Therefore/ today/ we recall the beginning of the public preaching and ministry of Jesus. The wedding feast at Cana was like his ‘coming out’: ‘He let his glory be seen and his disciples believed in him’ is how St John describes it. We are his disciples now, but we often fall short in the way we follow him and we often fail to reflect his glory to those around us. So let us examine ourselves to see what sort of disciples we are.
1. The liturgy presents us with an embarrassment of riches today for preaching. First, there is the Cana incident, which is the dramatic, and memorable, opening of the ministry of Jesus in John’s gospel. Second, there is the passage from Paul on the gifts given to each church by the Spirit, which is one of the very few occasions in Ordinary Time when the second reading is such a sufficiently contained unit, and is also accessible to the gathering from just listening to the passage, that it could be the basis of a homily. However, since there is no intrinsic nor intentional link between the second and the gospel, one must choose to preach on either one or other readings. In either case, the content of the homily can be approach fairly directly.
If you opt for the Cana story, then use notes 2 and 3; if Paul, then notes 4 to 6.
2. We think we know the Cana story – we all have heard it umpteen times, and it is so well told by John with its powerful image of gallons of the best wine in giant jars that it is firmly planted in our memory. But do we see it as a ‘sign’?
3. The key message of John’s first ‘sign’, and one of the very foundations of our believing, can be summed up in ten words: The Divine One is with us and knows our needs. That which was promised to Israel is now among his people. Israel thought of God as good and loving and caring – and a key image of that relationship was that God not only provided food – basic needs – but wine, wine in abundance and freely available – symbolising all that is pleasant and joyful in the world. Wine, in ancient culture as in our own, was associated with having a party – we still bring a bottle when going to a dinner or a party – and wine in abundance was the symbol of generosity – we still do not want to be stingy with wine and then as now people thought of ways of not appearing stingy as we see in the chef’s comments that people serve the good wine first. The abundance of the best wine shows that God is not only infinitely generous, but that his greatest gift was what was only made known in that moment: the Son of God has come among us. Like the best wine which only came at the end of a long period of waiting, so came Jesus in the history of Israel. God is generous and loving and wine is a fitting image of his care, but his greatest generosity is sending his own Son among us. It is this gift of the Christ that we thank the Father for every time we gather for the Eucharist and we celebrate his gift in our banquet of bread and wine.
4. Paul looks at how the various members of the church to whom he is writing have received a variety of gifts. We Christians see the diversity of people with all the various talents as an indication of the goodness and wisdom of God: it is all this variety working with co-ordination that makehe church and builds the kingdom.
5. However, s twhile we know that there is a variety of gifts and the one Spirit, we are often slow to act on it. Until a generation ago, for example, it was often said that only priests and nuns had vocations. Until just before 1970 everything at Mass, except bringing the cruets to the altar, was done by the priest, and all the people were just’ at Mass’ or were’ getting Mass’ or simply ‘hearing Mass’. All their gifts were simply ignored and the clergy acted as if they not only had all the gifts but that only they had the gifts of the Spirit. Moreover, many people liked it that way: the priests and nuns could do all the religious tasks and they could be left to get on with them, while other people could be Christians with minimal involvement.
6. So this reading prompts a series of questionings: first, each of us must ask what gifts have I for use within this community; second, as a community are we using all these gifts from the variety of all the members of the church for the good of the whole (or are ministries just in the hands of the priest and a little clique that do all the tasks in the community?); and third, to what extent are we still in the old two-class church where vocation and ministry could be dodged by leaving it to ‘the professionals’ (Le. priests and nuns)? These are hard questions, for both priest and communities have to have the courage to be able to change their minds.
Let the reader understand
The emphasis on Luke in Year C is set aside this week as the beginning of Jesus’ public life is considered from a highly symbolic perspective, the one offered by John in his story of the Wedding Feast of Cana. As we see in the first reading today, weddings are symbolic of the relationship between God and Israel. However, the marriage between God and his people is in trouble and this is indicated by the phrase of Jesus’ mother when she says ‘they have no wine’. Wine is the sign of joy and celebration arid this is what is missing, and all the gallons of water for rites of purification cannot put it right. But this is precisely why Jesus has come – to make the marriage happen, to bring us to union with God. What happens at Cana is a sign that points to the whole meaning of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, a meaning that can only be fully understood after his ‘hour’. As the disciples contemplate the marvellous outpouring (literally!) of God’s love, symbolised by the best wine, they come to believe in him – this is what is asked of us too.
It is somewhat ironic that we find ourselves now in Ordinary Time for there is nothing ‘ordinary’ in what is being said of us in today’s readings. On the one hand, the prophet is asking his people to recognise God’s personal and passionate love for them while, on the other, Paul is celebrating the abundance of gifts which this loving God has bestowed on his people. All of this is symbolised in the story of Cana where the wine of God’s joy flows liberally among the guests. The readings all point to the extraordinary dignity which is given to each one of us as a child of God. If only we could truly believe it of ourselves then we might more readily respect it in others.
Cana: New wine for life
The human side of the gospel today is the huge need of a young couple on the best day of their lives. Jesus hears of their need and the result is the wine for the wedding, but more so, it is the promise of the fullness of God.
We look for the fullness of life in money, food, sex, travel, security, reputation-none last. Only the simplest joys of life really satisfy in the end, like the joy of love, the thrill of friendship, the caring in family and the ways we enjoy the goodness of creation.
A man asked once in the hospice at the end of his life -‘what is happiness?’ ‘Find happiness now’ was his answer -‘be satisfied, be grateful, for what you have, for what you have received, for what God has given you.’ There is a fullness of life in being happy with who I am, what I have… and asking God for what he knows I need.
No matter what our .age, we can do good for others, we can share the graces of life and the soul can grow. That’s what I hope can happen for me as life goes on. In any group of people, some look happy and some look miserable. The happiest are not always the ones who had or are having the easiest life. They are the ones who have found peace with themselves, others and God.
Because of the gift of the fullness of God in ‘new wine’, we always have a home, here and after – in the heart of our God in Jesus Christ now and for eternity.
Jesus of the wedding feast of Cana,
give us the faith and hope to know that you can always make a change for the better in our lives, and the love to live by what we receive.