Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Isaiah furnishes this weekend’s first reading. When this third section of Isaiah was written, the Hebrew people had just emerged from a terrible period in their history. Their homeland, divided into two kingdoms after the death of King Solomon, had been overrun by the mighty Babylonian Empire, centered in today’s Iraq.
Many died or were killed in the conquest. Others were taken to Babylon, the imperial capital. There these exiles, and then their descendants, languished for four generations until political fortunes changed. The more powerful Persians conquered Babylonia.
As a result, the exiles were allowed to return to their homeland. The prophets did not see the sequence of events leading to this happy release as merely coincidental or the result of human decision-making. Rather, God provided for it. God had promised to protect the people. The people upset the arrangement by sinning.
Despite their sinfulness, however, God was constant. He provided.
For its second reading this weekend the Church presents a passage from St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.
Leading the Corinthian Christians to genuine fidelity was a considerable challenge for Paul. In reaction to rivalries and arguments in Corinth, Paul wrote what has become a blueprint for Christian living. He reminded the Corinthians to whom he wrote that each of them had special gifts and opportunities. Such diversity was welcome, since it meant that there were so many occasions for individual believers to bring the sweetness of the Gospel into the world. Paul even listed different skills and talents to make his point.
St. John’s Gospel supplies the third reading.
Unique to John, the miracle at Cana in Galilee was the first recorded of the Lord’s miracles. It marked the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry.
The emphasis usually lies upon the marvel of the changing of the water into wine. This indeed was remarkable, but the story has other powerful lessons.
One great lesson is about Mary. John’s Gospel never names her. It always simply refers to Mary as “the mother” of Jesus. This is not an oversight. It stresses her unique role as the Lord’s earthly parent.
The response of Jesus to the obvious embarrassment of the host in not having enough wine for the guest can be puzzling. Was the Lord indifferent to the host’s distress? His reply only stressed that the messianic mission was not to provide for human needs, but to draw all to God and to eternal life.
Mary enters the picture. First, Jesus hears her. Secondly, her faith is unqualified and frank. She trusts the Lord, telling the servers to do whatever the Lord orders them to do. So, this reading reveals the power and mission of Jesus, as well as Mary’s perfect response in faith to the Lord.
The Church celebrated the feast of the Nativity at Christmas, rejoicing in the birth of the Lord in time and space. In observing the feast of the Epiphany, the Church joyfully proclaimed to us that the Lord came to show all of us the unlimited love of God for us. The feast of the Baptism of the Lord told us that Jesus lived, and eventually died, for us. He became one of us.
This weekend, in the words of Isaiah, the Church declares that earthly life would be beautiful if we all loved God in return.
How do we love God? The story of Cana tells us. Jesus teaches us that no human situation should distract us from the fact that being with God is our destiny and therefore our priority.
Mary instructs us that we can go to Jesus with any worry, but, her example tells us, as she told the servants, that we must follow the Lord and trust the Lord.
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