Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C), 2019-01-20: Jesus Also Wants to Transform You into Noble Wine

Father THOMAS IDERGARD SJ

Homily for Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-01-20

Year C: Isaiah 62:1-5; Ps 96 (also 145); 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-11

St. Eugenia Catholic Church, Stockholm (English Mass)

 

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Marriage and wine are the common denominators between our First reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah and the gospel passage of today. Practically, wine is often there to celebrate a marriage. But also spiritually, marriage and wine belong together.

In the Biblical tradition, wine just like bread represents the joining together of the goodness of God the Creator with human labour. But it is also an image of feast, a pre-taste of the joy of the heavenly banquet, which God according to ancient Jewish prophetic imagery will hold with all peoples. And as we heard in our first reading, this banquet is a wedding feast between God and Israel, his chosen people, represented by Zion-Jerusalem; a wedding in which the whole world will take delight.

The Christian understanding of this wedding is God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ, through the people, and the faith, of Israel. God who called and assembled Israel, “who built” her, as we heard Isaiah saying, regards her as a bride whom he will “wed”, i.e. become one flesh with, resulting in a glory that “the nations … and all the kings … will see”. As Jesus is this union, this marriage, which all will see and benefit from by faith, wine, the means for joyful celebration, is a natural symbol for him.

It is therefore fitting that Jesus’s first public miracle presenting him to the world occurs at a wedding feast in the Galilean town of Cana and involves wine. All the miracles of Jesus were real events confirming him as the Messiah and showing his divine power by origin, and thereby his transformation of all existing concepts of the Messiah. Indeed, God is Lord of matter and has established the laws of nature. This means he can transform and use matter in order to tell us things about himself. If he could not, he would not be God. The belief in Jesus’s miracles as real historical events is thus important for the belief in his divinity. But being the living Word of God, Jesus’s actions furthermore speak to us beyond their historical context, without losing their historicity.

Jesus is not making just a few extra bottles of wine. No, the six stone jars normally used for the ablution rituals altogether contains more than 500 litres filled to the brim, as the gospel said they were. What on earth is the purpose of making such an overabundance of wine at a private party? Let us look closer to the events described to find the answer.

First, we have the role of our Blessed Virgin Mary. She turns to Jesus when the wine has run out. This shows she trusts him in everything. We are called to do likewise. Jesus’s answer, “woman … my hour has not come yet”, sounds as an impolite rejection. But by the term “woman” Jesus refers to Adam’s name to Eve, mother of all living. What we today might experience as somewhat diminishing, is in the language of the Scriptures, the language Jesus alwaysuses, the opposite: he grants his mother some of the honorary titles under which he wants us to venerate her: the New Eve, mother of all believers in Christ, of all who partake in his new life and creation; Mother of the Church. And so, we are drawn back to our first reading: as representative of Israel’s loyal faith, Virgin Mary is the bride through whom God unites divinity and humanity.

By referring to his “hour”, Jesus means his glorification on the cross and in the resurrection, still some year away. He underlines that he never acts and makes decisions by his own judgement, only in tune with the Father. His hour, when he as the true and eternal Paschal lamb will shed his blood for our salvation, will occur based on God’scounsel, bound to a particular liturgical date to mark the beginning of a new liturgy in spirit and truth. Talking to Virgin Mary about his hour, Jesus thus associates it with the secret of the cross. First after having pointed that out, Jesus can exercise his power to anticipate his hour as a sign, and do what his mother asks him. The miracle in Cana thereby tells us that we can turn to the Blessed Virgin and ask her to petition her Son, our Lord, on our behalf. And above all, the miracle becomes an anticipation of Jesus’s truehour, which it always will be bound to, from within.

And this anticipation of his hour is still and constantly present in the midst of the Church. We always experience this anew in the Holy Eucharist. Through the prayer of the Church the Lord anticipates his second coming, by coming to us already now. He begins to celebrate the heavenly banquet with us and draws us out of our present time towards his hour.

So, we begin to understand what really happens in Cana. The sign of God is always abundance. We can see it in Jesus’s miracle of feeding thousands with five loaves of bread. We can see it in the centre of salvation history when God pours himself out for his miserable creation, humanity. The abundance of Cana with more than 500 litres of new wine, better than anything else, tells us that God’s wedding banquet with humanity, his self-giving for our eternal life with him, has begun by the coming of Jesus Christ. What was promised in the old prophets as fulfilment of time, now enters into, becomes part of, our present.

In our present, Jesus wants to transform us, if we cooperate with his abounding grace in the sacraments of the Church; transform us from plain water into the best and noblest of wines. So, when we reflect on the wondrous event in Cana we ought to ask ourselves, each one of us: Do I allow myself to be spiritually nourished by Christ and his Church, exclusively; or do I turn to competing nourishment, short time desirable but long-term inferior and devastating for the salvation of my soul?

And further: Do I allow myself to be changed by Him so that my life in actions, not only in words, will reflect Him, and taste like the best of wines? For that particular purpose, for which the Holy Spirit was given to me in baptism, as we heard in our second reading from the First letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians? In other words, do I allow myself to become one of the faithful proclaimers in our responsorial psalm; i.e. my life in itself, in space and time where I have been placed, as an anticipation of God’s heavenly feast?

 

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