2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Isaiah furnishes this weekend’s Liturgy of the Word with its first reading. Knowing the history of ancient Israel helps in understanding this reading.
The kingdom of Israel, carefully crafted by King David and given glory by David’s son, Solomon, split after Solomon’s death in a power duel among would-be successors. Two kingdoms then formed. Weakened, dismembered and chronically unsure as to national mission, the two kingdoms both were easy prey to aggressive outsiders.
One such outsider was the great Babylonian Empire, centered in Babylon, located in modern Iraq, no longer an important city. Militarily strong, with aggressive ambitions, the Babylonians easily overwhelmed God’s people in both their kingdoms. Many died, but some were taken to Babylon, not exactly as hostages but certainly not as honored guests.
These displaced Hebrews, and then their children, yearned to go home. Generations passed. Finally, Babylonia itself fell to more powerful neighbors, namely the Persians. Cyrus, the Persian king, allowed the Hebrew exiles to go home.
The author of this section of Isaiah saw the defeat and exile of God’s people as the direct result of their sins, but God still loved them. God provided for them in their exile. God used Cyrus as an instrument to give them new life.
St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians gives us the second reading.
Corinth presented Paul with many challenges. The people were slow in abandoning old ways. They quarreled, and they flirted with the old paganism. Paul constantly corrected them, but he also encouraged them.
In this reading, St. Paul calls all the Christian Corinthians to the unity, and unified life, of the Church. One Spirit empowers all. Among all are many talents.
St. John’s Gospel supplies the Gospel reading. It is the story of Cana, and the Lord’s miraculous replenishment of the wine being served. Typical of John, it is a passage literally overflowing with powerful lessons and references.
First, it is the beginning of the Lord’s ministry. His ministry did not begin with some spectacular show of power in the sky, for example. Rather, it began in a gesture of love in the face of ordinary human need.
Secondly, the miracle was in response to human faith. The faith is evident in Mary’s trust in Jesus. Moreover, she collected in herself the sense of need of the others, and she turned to Jesus, knowing that Jesus was the answer.
Thirdly, it identifies Jesus as the Messiah. Prophets had written that with the anticipated Redeemer “sweet wine would flow.” Also, in popular perception, wine had life. Jesus gave this wine in abundance, and the wine provided by Jesus was the best wine of all.
Finally, probably everyone at the feast was Jewish. Jesus said that His “hour had not yet come.” The hour comes for John’s Gospel when Jesus encounters gentiles. The lesson: The Lord came to save all people.
The late, great biblical scholar, Father Raymond E. Brown, saw in this narrative from John a magnificently revealing message, precisely in its words about Mary.
In this reading Mary is totally human — and completely Christian. She is a model for us. We are humans. We aspire to be perfect Christians.
With limited human knowledge, she did not perceive the depth of her Son’s mission, “My hour has not yet come,” but she believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the almighty Son of God. “Do whatever He tells you.”
The Cana story reveals the Lord’s divinity, supplying human need. Revealing also is the term, “hour.” The Lord’s hour came when the gentiles heard the Gospel.
We are gentiles, if not by ethnicity then by estrangement from God.
Also remember, the Blessed Mother advocates for us as she advocated for the hosts at the Cana feast.
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