Sister Rose Ann Barmann, OSB reflects on the scripture readings: Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-22
In the past weeks we have journeyed liturgically through Advent, Christmastide, Epiphany, and the Baptism of Jesus, remembering that the Jesus Story and our Stories have similarities. With joyful celebrations, we have again recalled and marked the coming of God into our world in the Person of Jesus the Christ.
Now we enter Ordinary Time.
In the Church’s liturgical history, the wedding feast of Cana is closely associated with the baptism of the Lord and the adoration of the infant Jesus by the Wise Men. In this context, the sign Jesus performs at the wedding feast is celebrated as an epiphany or a manifestation of Jesus’ divinity. The baby wrapped in swaddling clothes that we adore is truly God and Man.
Marriage and a wedding are the images that the Word of God presents for us today. Isaiah portrays the intimate relationship that God desires to have with us…as close and intimate as a married couple. Isaiah says, “For the Lord delights in you and makes your land his spouse. 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.”
In this reflection, I am sharing a few points about a Jewish wedding ceremony as the setting for the Word of God that we experience today. I have used content from Loyola Press and the National Catholic Reporter for this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.
A Jewish wedding is a wedding ceremony that follows Jewish laws and traditions. At the time of Jesus, a wedding may have lasted several days, perhaps a week. John’s Gospel makes a point of telling us “That the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.”
While wedding ceremonies vary, common features of a Jewish wedding include a marriage contract, which is signed by two witnesses and a wedding canopy. A traditional Jewish wedding ceremony takes place under a wedding canopy, symbolizing the new home being built by the couple when they become husband and wife.
The ring owned by the groom is given to the bride under the canopy during the ritual. According to Jewish law, the ring must be composed of solid metal (gold or silver are preferred).
Wine is a symbol of joy in Jewish tradition. It is associated with the Kiddush, the prayer of sanctity recited on Sabbath and the holidays. The marriage, also known as Kiddushin, is the sanctification of a man and a woman in the moment of being together.
The breaking of the glass as part of the wedding ceremony symbolizes the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Couples include this tradition in their wedding ceremony as it demonstrates the absolute permanence of the marital covenant.
Marriage and wedding feasts are metaphors used in Scripture to describe God’s salvation and the Kingdom of God. Here at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, John’s Gospel seeks to establish that Jesus is going to re-interpret and fulfill Yahweh’s promise to Israel. Jesus establishes the New Covenant. A hint about what this New Covenant will be like is made evident in the miracle that Jesus performs during this wedding celebration.
Asked to do something to address the awkward situation that the absence of wine at a wedding feast would create, Jesus’ miracle produces vast quantities of wine—six jars holding thirty gallons each are filled to overflowing with choice wine. In doing the math, Jesus miraculously creates 180 gallons of wine available for the bride and groom and their guests. Jesus’ first miracle is a response to a very ordinary and basic need of a bride and groom.
As we begin a new church year, it is Mary the mother of Jesus who comes to the rescue in the shortage of wine. Mary’s motherly knowing just says to the servants, “do whatever he tells you.”
Mary of Nazareth, the persistent guest at Cana, urges us to believe that the time has come. The time is now for us to listen to the urgings of the Spirit of Jesus in our hearts. The hour has come for the church to become genuinely synodal, appreciating and listening to the voice of each of her members, especially the poor, all women, and those on the margins. The hour has come for all of us to be coworkers with God and to listen to the Gospel. The hour has come to look at Christ and do whatever he tells us.
This lavish response to a simple human need is a vision for us of the abundance of God’s kingdom. It challenges us to respond generously when confronted with human needs today. We respond as best we can, fully confident that God can transform our efforts, bringing the Kingdom of God to fulfillment among us.