January 20, 2019
First Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5
Responsorial: Psalm 96: 1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10
Second Reading: 1 Cor 12:4-11
Gospel: John 2:1-11
An Invitation to Newness
I have an amazing new pair of eyeglasses this year! When I put them on for the first time, I couldn’t believe what I was able to see. With the new lenses, I can now see objects from really far away with much more clarity without having to squint or speculate. These new eyeglasses, which were made and given to me by a friend who happens to be an ophthalmologist, allow me to see things in a fresh new way that I wasn’t able to see before with my old lenses. One of the major themes gleaned from this Sunday’s Scripture readings is that of the invitation to see through a new prism and experience God’s abundance afresh.
The first reading comes from the so-called Third Isaiah and is essentially an oracle of salvation. It consists of a prophetic promise of deliverance developed through the use of marriage imagery. In the earlier part of the book, Isaiah spoke about the nearly unredeemable relationship between the people and their God. Both were at odds and looked to be at the point of no return. But in today’s reading, it seems that all is forgiven. The metaphor of marriage between God and the land/people signals a new kind of union and a new kind of covenantal relationship based on trust and fidelity. The passage ends in a euphoric tone, exuberant about the changing fortunes of the people and the land that they inhabit. The people, who were once “forsaken” or abandoned by one’s spouse, are now the delight of the Lord; the land that was once “desolate” or barren is newly espoused. Isaiah depicts God and the land/people are married — what a powerful metaphor!
Just as God was unable to keep silent in the face of the people’s misfortunes, the mother of Jesus likewise did not remain quiet when she saw that the wine at the wedding feast had run out. Mary’s timely and prophetic intervention led Jesus to perform the first “sign” in the Gospel of John turning water into wine at Cana and inaugurate his public ministry and mission. All the signs in John point to Jesus as divine and majestic, and the story of Jesus turning water into wine is no different. As it is often the case, there is much more significant to this story than first meets the eye. Jesus wasn’t being disrespectful to his mother by his seemingly rough response nor was he simply complying with his mother’s request in order to help his hosts to save face by replenishing their shortage of wine. Readers are invited to look deeper and to probe more fully into the highly Christological and soteriological significance of Jesus’ first sign. The abundance of choice wine, about 120 gallons, points to the fulfillment of the biblical promises that the time of messianic age has arrived. While his final hour — when he is lifted up on the cross-has not yet come, this first sign does reveal Jesus’ glory and divinity, and the disciples began to believe in him.
In Jesus, God has offered us a new way of seeing and experiencing God’s abundance. As we gather at this Sunday’s Eucharist, we are invited to taste the new choice-wine of salvation in super-abundant quantity. May the Word and Sacrament strengthen our resolve to courageously accept the invitation to come out into mission and to proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations as the Responsorial Psalm invites us to do (Ps 96). Furthermore, may we never remain silent in the face of injustice.
Professor of New Testament Studies and
Holder of the Francis X. Ford, M.M., Chair of Catholic Missiology