Opening reflection (taken from Magnificat magazine, www.magnificat.com): At a wedding feast in Cana, Christ performed the first of the seven signs (miracles) recounted in the Gospel of John. The wanting wine threatens to spoil the celebration of new love. But the Mother of God notices the need and speaks to her Son. With one word from His mother, Jesus reveals His divinity so that, just as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, all people can realize just how much our God rejoices in us. Just as it did for His first disciples, this revelation of glory leads us to deeper belief in Christ. The miracle of “good wine” continues through the outpouring of the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit to each individual.
(This weekend's Scripture readings are available in the New American Bible translation at the Vatican’s English website at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM.)
First Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5 (Revised Standard Version)
A reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest,
until her vindication goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
which the mouth of the LORD will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed “Forsaken,”
and your land shall no more be termed “Desolate”;
but you shall be called “My delight is in her,”
and your land “Married”;
for the LORD delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a virgin,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Meditation: Seventy years of exile was bound to produce despair among the faithful Jews confined to Babylon since the destruction of Jerusalem and of Solomon's Temple. They could well understand the analogy of desolation drawn here in Isaiah's latter chapters (whether it was first spoken by a fellow “Deutero-Isaiah” exile or by the original prophet, who witnessed the exile to Assyria of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and had indeed prophesied of the future Babylonian conquest to King Hezekiah of Judah).
Surely the exiles would have received the prophets' words of eventual redemption with hope. What would they have thought, however, of the statement that their God would “marry” them as a nation? The future implication of this passage will become clearer after reading this weekend's Gospel on the wedding at Cana. The short-term imagery might be easier to understand by remembering other prophets' comparisons of faithless Israel to a “harlot” who chased after other gods – other spouses, as it were. (Consider, for example, God's directive to Northern Kingdom prophet Hosea to marry a woman, Gomer, to whom he was to remain faithful even though she had been and would continue to be faithless.)
Israel's chronic prostitution of itself to the gods of other nations had earned God's wrath many times over – and yet God still wished, when the time was right, to take back His people and make them His beloved spouse! The Body of Christ, as we know, would not be limited to Israel. That fact is clearer in other Scripture passages. No matter. These were, and are, words of hope and of love. In the marriage of one man and one woman, God offers us His most perfect earthly comparison to the love He has for us – and, most specifically, the love His only Son, the Bridegroom, has for his Bride, the Church.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
A reading from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.
Brothers and sisters: There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Meditation: Neither is the Body of Christ made up of only one type of human being with only one type of gift. Paul's words to the local church he founded in Corinth are very familiar to Christians of all denominational flavors; this passage is regularly quoted whenever congregations or church bodies discuss the need to harness the gifts and talents of all their members to fulfill Christ's Great Commission. The list of talents seems quite ancient to our modern ears, but the principle is timeless (and the gifts are not as archaic as skeptical 21st-century humans wish to believe). We are still early in a new year. How might God be calling you to give the gift of yourself so that others may feel the presence of Christ, believe in Him and become disciples themselves?
Gospel: John 2:1-11
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John. Glory to You, O Lord.
There was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast." So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.
Meditation: Religious-education classes, Sunday School classes, homily after homily, sermon after sermon – Catholics and Protestants alike know this story. Is it merely “the first miracle” of all the miracles wrought by Jesus during the following three years? Or is it merely a blessing of Jesus on the institution of marriage? Catholics see these things, of course, but more than that. Our eyes are drawn to Mary taking her Son aside, saying that the wine for the reception had run out.
Cana was a small village close to the Holy Family's town of Nazareth. Though we know nothing of the new husband and wife, their surroundings suggest that they well could have been poor. And what wine there was likely was brought by the guests to a party that sometimes had its length measured in days rather than hours. Mary probably knew the couple; Jesus and His disciples likely were invited because of her. When the wine ran dry, the Mother of God likely was embarrassed for the young couple. And she knew Someone who could do something about it.
What context do we lay upon Jesus' reply: “O woman, what have you to do with Me?” Some may hear a flippant, somewhat disrespectful reply. Far be it from our Lord, of course, to give such a reply. Something else must be meant. Think ahead to the cross and Jesus' words to His mother: “Woman, behold your son” (meaning St. John). Then think back to the Garden of Eden: “I will put enmity between you and the woman … she will crush your head ...” Jesus identifies His mother with the first of all God's prophecies of the Messiah.
And if Jesus is our King, then that makes Mary His “Queen Mother” – the most powerful woman in many ancient monarchies. We see the significance of this fact in the opening chapters of 1 Kings, when the newly crowned King Solomon receives his mother, Bathsheba, who requests a favor on behalf of Adonijah, Solomon's brother and defeated rival for their father David's throne. Solomon shows deep respect toward his mother, has a throne brought in for her to occupy and even says, “I will not refuse you.” He did refuse the request – for Adonijah's request was to marry David's concubine Abishag, a step that would have signaled continued struggles for power – but he did not refuse to hear his mother.
Jesus seems to turn Mary down here with His words, “My hour has not yet come.” So why then did Mary subsequently tell the attendants, “Do whatever He tells you”? To put her Son on the spot? Again, there must be more to Jesus' words. He was reminding Mary that He had not yet begun to reveal His true nature – that the timing for doing so was in His hands, not hers. That said, however, the Mother of God must have heard something in the reply of the Son. Perhaps she saw a smile. He would do this for her, for the couple's happiness and – most significantly – for the budding faith of the men He had begun to call to Himself, the men who one day would use their varied talents to bring His Good News to all nations. So the attendants fill the jars with water. And Israel would begin to learn who Jesus was.
Close with individual prayer, followed by Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be