January 20, 2013 - Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 62:1-5; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Jn 2:1-11
We are invited to a wedding
Everyone loves a wedding! It is a public manifestation of commitment to love, the beginning of a new family with all its promise, and a great time for a party. If it is such a time of happiness, why do people cry at weddings? Many people are simply overcome by emotion. But which emotion? Might it be that they realize that the couple has moved beyond their individual lives as friends have known them, and they are creating something new and extraordinary? They are basing the future of this new reality on trust in each other. To place one's future in the hands of another weak, limited human being is a remarkable act of trust, one that might well elicit strong emotion. Consequently, it was not by accident that Isaiah used the wedding metaphor to characterize the intimate bond between God and the people. Nor was it a coincidence that Jesus' first wondrous sign recorded in the Gospel of John occurred during a wedding feast. A wedding is a sign that love that is strong enough to trust in another.
The imagery found in the first reading characterizes the love that God has for the people of Israel. Zion, the hill on which the city of Jerusalem was established, came to represent the city itself. Destroyed by the Babylonians it is referred to by the prophet Isaiah as "Forsaken" and the land as "Desolate." However, something new is about to take place. The city is about to be vindicated by the very God who had forsaken it. The covenant relationship is about to be reestablished and a new name given. Renaming always means a new status or a new creation. The people's name will be changed from "Forsaken" to "My Delight" and the land from "Desolate" to "Espoused." The wedding metaphor captures both excitement and hope. God is the one who initiates this new relationship; God is the one who will build up a new community. It seems that God's love is great enough that God will actually ground the future in trust in this weak human nation.
The very first sign that Jesus performs in the Gospel of John takes place at a wedding. The excitement and hope that surged through the wedding feast exemplify the excitement and hope that will mark his ministry. In this gospel, Jesus' miracles are called signs, meaning that they are outward manifestations of some deeper reality. To what reality does this sign point? Since a wedding signifies a new creation, this sign must somehow characterize something new. In the story, the water preserved in the stone jars is intended for Jewish ceremonial washing. Free flowing wine into which Jesus changed the water is a standard symbol of eschatological fulfillment. By performing this miracle, Jesus transforms a celebration of marital new life and hope into one of eschatological new life and hope.
Wedding celebrations also include gifts. In this new life of eschatological fulfillment, we have been given remarkable gifts. In the passage from 1 Corinthians, Paul lists a few of them: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, mighty deeds, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and their interpretation. There are others as well: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5:22). Weddings mean new life, a new creation. New Year's resolutions also suggest a new way of living, a kind of transformation. What would happen if we considered this new year as the beginning of a new relationship with God, something like a wedding? How would the world change if each one of us took hold of even one of the marvelous gifts that we have been given by the Spirit and allowed it to transform our lives, like water transformed into good wine, and then shared it with others? Why can't such transformation be done? Isaiah recounted how the devastated Israel was restored; John reports how water became wine. The same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God works in us. Why can't it be done today?
Probably every one of us would rise to the occasion if we knew we had been chosen to make a difference, to launch a transformation. We would thrill to the idea of being chosen for such distinction. To think that we have what it takes to make a difference - now that is something! But we have been chosen. We are the ones who have been chosen to change the world. We are the ones called to bring about the peace for which so many people long. We have been given the responsibility to reform our world, our church. You may say: 'We can't do it.' Why not? Look at all of the marvelous gifts we have been given. Though God initiates the transformation, we can be part of changing what has been forsaken into a delight, what has been desolate into something that is espoused. We have been invited to the wedding of eschatological fulfillment. We have been chosen to make a difference.
Dianne Bergant, C.S.A.
Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies
This reflection was first published in America magazine.
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