Sunday Sermon for January 16, 2022, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings: Is 62:1-5; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Jn 2:1-11

In calling Israel into a covenant relationship with Himself, God took His Chosen People into a relationship that is akin to a marriage.  This marital relationship is mentioned many times in the Old Testament.  Often it is because Israel was like an unfaithful wife who broke the marriage covenant.  However, in the first reading today God tells Israel through the Prophet Isaiah that: “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you.”

While the majority of references to the marital relationship between God and Israel are in the writings of the Prophets, the origin of this union can be traced all the way back to the covenant God made with Israel through Moses.  This is an important point because Isaiah is writing many centuries after that covenant was made on Mount Sinai.  Notice in the passage from Isaiah that God is speaking of something that will happen in the future.  Isaiah wrote about 700 years before our Lord came into the world.

In the Gospel we hear about our Lord’s first sign that was accomplished at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee.  Being the first of His signs, there is a greater significance to this one.  Jesus could have worked His first miracle anywhere He wanted and at any time He wanted.  He chose to do this at a wedding feast.  One might think He did this just because of His Mother’s concern, but if He was not ready to begin His public ministry, He would not have changed the water into wine.  He had spent thirty years with His Mother and, from what we can tell, she probably never asked Him to work a miracle previously.  So, even the fact that she expressed her concern at that moment and in that context is important.

It is also important to look at our Lord’s response to His Mother’s concern.  More literally, our Lord’s response is, “Woman, what is this to you and to me?”  Although this sounds to us like Jesus is rebuffing His Mother, our Lord’s reply is actually a normal Hebrew response with no hint of disrespect. 

An additional aspect of this exchange at Cana that must be recognized is its connection with the events at Calvary.  There, on the Cross, we see our Lord addressing His Mother in a similar manner.  This calls attention to when God made His very first promise to send a Redeemer.  In the third chapter of the Book of Genesis we are told there would be enmity between the woman and the serpent, between his seed and hers.  The references to our Lady as “woman” (recall that her name is never used in St. John’s Gospel) are specifically intended to show that what is happening is in fulfillment of that promise from Genesis.

Furthermore, we see that on the Cross our Lord enters into His marriage with His Bride, the Church.  In fact, the Church is created from His opened side, as Eve was created from the open side of Adam.  The blood and water that flowed from our Lord’s side remind us of the water that was turned to wine, the “blood of the grape,” that took place at Cana.  So, Jesus worked this first of His signs at a wedding to highlight the truth that He came as a Bridegroom to unite Himself with His Bride.

I often point out to young couples preparing for marriage that the couple does not give gifts to one another because, in a marriage, they are the gift to one another.  Certainly, on the Cross, our Lord gave Himself entirely.  In the Eucharist, prefigured in the wine of Cana and in the Blood of Calvary, He continues to give Himself entirely.  However, in the second reading the Church draws our attention to the Holy Spirit Who is given to us when we enter into the marriage covenant with the Lord that occurs at our baptism.  The Holy Spirit is God, so in giving us the Holy Spirit, our Lord is giving Himself.  The Holy Spirit works within each of us so we have the gifts and ability to give ourselves back to God through love of and service to God and neighbor.

This union of our Lord and His Bride, the Church, perfects what began imperfectly at Sinai with the Jewish people and fulfills what was spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah.  As members of the Church, we are the Bride.  Through prayer we develop this spousal relationship and grow in love and fidelity with the Bridegroom of our souls.  Indeed, the words spoken by the Prophet Isaiah are to be fulfilled in us, for our Lord desires to rejoice in each of us, His bride.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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