Spirituality of the Readings
A new season of the Church year is upon us. Without much notice, “Ordinary Time” has replaced the “Christmas season.” Last Sunday climaxed Jesus’ birth, early life, and of course, his baptism.
Now it is time to begin hearing about his active and public life as God’s Word. That work is the content of “Ordinary Time,” in spite of the season’s mundane name.*
How long will “Ordinary Time” last? Every Sunday from now on, except for interventions by the Advent/Christmas season, the Lent/Easter season, or any other special celebration of the Lord.
There are three different years worth of Ordinary Time readings, one for each year in the three year cycle, each having a clever name such as A, B, or C (!). In every one of these years one particular “synoptic” Gospel writer is featured, Mark, Matthew or Luke.
We are now in year C, which we began in Advent. Thus Ordinary Time for this year will feature the Gospel according to Luke. The following words will be proclaimed before the Gospel reading each Sunday: “A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke.”**
To make things more complicated, however, this year’s Second Sunday of Ordinary Time does not have a reading from Luke’s Gospel after all. The Church has used instead a reading from the Gospel of John, about an event which took place before Jesus’ public life had begun, as Jesus says explicitly (“My hour has not yet come”).
One way to look at this anomaly is to say that the present Sunday is a brief transition, meant to console us and raise our expectations concerning the Messiah and the Good News.***
So, let us get down to business, or rather to symbols.
Isaiah in the First Reading says that God is going to give his people a new name. They will be called “My delight.” Their land will be known by the name, “Espoused.” The Lord will marry them and bring forth abundance from their lands.
In the familiar Gospel, we are at the wedding feast of Cana in Galilee and the wine has run out. But Jesus is able to transform water into the very best wine, just as the Father can change a forsaken people into ones that are his delight.
Water turned to wine is a wonderful image for a people who are fresh out of hope and need to drink of the promise. Only God in Jesus can supply this real refreshment. The Gospel story has more symbolic depth than just a simple story of an amazing miracle would.
Mary says modestly to Jesus, “They have no wine” [symbolically, the human race has no real life left in it]. Jesus replies strangely: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”
His public life has not yet come. In that life he will have to preach, heal, suffer, die and rise again, as we will see in the coming weeks.
But Mary knew him too well. She did not take seriously all the reasons God’s promise cannot be fulfilled at this time. She knew that the people needed the full, rich wine of life, which is love. She trusted her son.
She says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
And then there is wine.
On this Sunday we begin to watch Jesus make us into “his delight.”
John Foley, SJ
**From Saint Louis University