Paolo Vernonese’s The Wedding Feast at Cana (1563). It was the miracle that inaugurated the messianic age as Jesus turned six jars of water into wine. Photo from Wikipedia

God's Word on Sunday: Words of hope pave way to new reality

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  • January 10, 2022

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jan. 16 (Year C) Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 96; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-12

Spoken words can cause great hurt and long-lasting damage.

In the Bible, we are repeatedly warned to choose our words carefully and to be deliberate and aware as we speak. But there is a flip side to this caution. Great harm is also done by unspoken words, especially when they are desperately needed. The words are perhaps stifled or unspoken due to insensitivity, fear or embarrassment. Our greatest sins are those of omission — not doing or saying what we feel is right.

The people of Jerusalem were in desperate need of hope and encouragement. The return from exile had not lived up to their expectations. Jerusalem had not recovered her shattered glory and the rebuilt temple was pitiful and inadequate. People were wondering if God had forgotten or abandoned them.

Isaiah — or someone continuing to prophesy in his tradition — was so filled with the Spirit that he could not keep silent. He continued with words of hope and encouragement — Jerusalem would recover her former glory.

In the Bible names were important — they made a statement about the person. Small wonder, then, that Isaiah poured out names like My Delight and Married, signifying God’s great love for Jerusalem/Zion. The old names — Desolate and Forsaken — are trampled underfoot for they no longer apply.

The nation got a makeover, culminating in a crown and a royal diadem. God was going to rejoice over Jerusalem like a bridegroom over his bride. They were encouraged to begin thinking and living in this new reality, for as we think, so we become. Spousal images are used throughout Scripture to describe the relationship of love, intimacy and care that God has for God’s people.

This prophecy has much to tell us. The Church is going through a very rough and painful time. Trust, respect, joy and self-confidence have all taken many hits. Isaiah assures us that God has not abandoned us and that we too will experience new life and a renewed relationship with one another and with God. But we will have to put our house in order first.

God addresses these words of comfort, hope and encouragement to all of us, and we should in turn address them to one another.

Paul was forced to address the poisonous competition and jealousy that were destroying the unity of the community in Corinth. People with various gifts laboured under the illusion that the gifts were a prize for holiness and their private possession.

Paul set the record straight: the gifts all flowed from the same source — the Spirit. They were given but for one purpose — the common good of the community. No gift was greater than another nor were the gifts a sign of any special favour. Paul continually emphasized the unified nature of the community. Anything that divided or weakened this unity in any way was to be avoided at all costs.

The miracle at Cana is rather strange, for it appears only in John, and unlike other miracles, does not involve healing of any sort. Jesus was present only as a guest and did not appear to have planned any display of divine power.

He seemed a bit irritated at the request of His mother to do something about the dwindling wine supply. It was no concern of His and He didn’t want to get involved. It did not fit into His timetable for His hour had not yet come. But He did respond, transforming six large jars of water into wine.

The steward exclaimed that most hosts served good wine at the beginning and poorer qualities after everyone was drunk, but in this case the best wine was saved until last.

The story is neither about marriage nor wine — it was about Jesus and His identity. In John’s Gospel, ordinary words are heavily symbolic and have layers of meaning.

References to abundant sweet wine in the last days are found in several places in Scripture (Amos 9:11, 13; Joel 3:18; Isa 25:6). This is the key to this story — Jesus has inaugurated the messianic age. This was the first of His signs and the glory or divine power that He manifested caused His disciples to believe in Him.

God’s blessings are not in the distant past but are found in the present. We are invited to partake of that wine of the new age.

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