1 Corinthians 12:4-11
If you’re anything like me, it seems like it has been months since we celebrated Christmas. The busy and rich holy days gave way to New Year’s resolutions, as we returned to work, school, and ministry. Even the memories of our recent celebrations of Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord are quickly fading. And yet, on this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, the gospel story of the wedding at Cana forms the third part of a sort of Epiphany trilogy and carries the themes of these two Christmastide feasts into the green days of Ordinary Time: manifestation and transformation.
These three Epiphany events — the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus by John, and the miracle at Cana — are, as Pope Francis has described them, “the three signs that the liturgy brings in these days in order to speak to us about the manifestation of God: God makes himself known.” As we know, the story of the Magi coming from the East reminds us that the child born in Bethlehem was born for all peoples, and the baptism of Jesus is the revelation that he is the Father’s “beloved Son.” So, then, what do we learn from the miracle at Cana? What truth is revealed in this Sunday’s gospel?
To answer this question, we have to pull back the lens, as it were, to take in a broader view of salvation history.
Throughout the Old Testament, we read of how God continually called straying women and men back into right-relationship with Himself. The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with signs and stories that reveal God’s covenant-love — His relationship — with His Chosen People: the rainbow after the great flood (Genesis 9:1-17), Abraham’s star-filled sky (Gn 15), the giving of the Law to Moses (Exodus 15 and 24), and the promises made to King David and his descendants (1 Samuel 7:12-13). Each of these stories remind us that while the People of Israel violated this relationship time and again, God’s love and mercy remained constant. Even the first reading of this Sunday’s Mass reminds us of God’s abiding and merciful love: “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 (Isaiah 62:5).”
But those signs and symbols of the Old Testament were only representations of God’s love. On that first Christmas night everything changed. In Jesus — who is the Word-Made-Flesh — God “made his dwelling among us and we have seen his glory” (John 1:14) and the miracle at Cana was the first time that Jesus manifested — remember, this is an Epiphany — his own transforming power and his glory. This is why Adrian Nocent, OSB, could write these beautiful words in his celebrated commentary on the liturgical year: “We were once water, now we are wine, and are judged worthy of the wedding feast … We are being invited, then, to meditate on this renewal of our selves, of our institutions, and of everything around us, but we must bear in mind that the renewal will come in its fullness only at the wedding feast of the last day.”
Cana marked a beginning and in the transformation of the water into wine we discover that Jesus wasn’t simply another prophet or holy man. He was God’s “Beloved” and he holds the power to transform — to recreate and renew — the elements of earth and, more importantly, the hearts, minds, and souls of his followers.
In the coming weeks of Ordinary Time, we will hear the stories of how this transforming and saving work, begun in Cana, changed the lives of Jesus’ disciples, as we’re invited to reflect on how that transforming power continues to shape us today.
Br. Silas Henderson, SDS
(In honor of Our Lady of Cana)*
in your divine wisdom and love
you chose that the Blessed Virgin Mary
should play her part
in the mysteries of our salvation;
grant that by heeding the words of Christ’s Mother
we may do what he commands
in the Gospel he has given.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, volume 1)
*For centuries, Christians in certain countries have honored the Blessed Virgin Mary on January 6, under the title “Our Lady of Cana.” The most recent collection of Masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin includes a special votive Mass for this Christmas season honoring Our Lady under this title. In the commentary for the Mass, we are invited to reflect on how the Mother of Jesus was chosen to play her part in the mysteries of our salvation and how she fulfills her role as mother of the whole human family as she begs her son to help us in our own needs.