Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 20, 2013
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 96; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-11

While last week’s baptism of Jesus inaugurates his public ministry, this week’s miracle at Cana is the first display of his divine power. From the start, John’s Gospel portrays Jesus as one who is fully in control of his destiny. We know from the Prologue that he pre-exists creation. We see that Jesus needs a little prodding from his mother to manifest his authority. She needs his help because she is at a wedding feast of her friend. She shows that she is his first disciple because she believes in his power.

John’s depiction of the first miracle of Jesus reveals some curious points. First, the mother of Jesus is the principal invitee to the wedding. Jesus and his disciples are there as well but the primary relationship is with his mother. She is not named though we know the Evangelist knew her name. Just as John the Baptist was a strong character, but Jesus was the stronger one, his mother’s place is important, but the spotlight is placed squarely upon Jesus. This is his moment and his mother knows it. Strangely, when Jesus speaks to his mother, he does not call her “mom” or “mother,” but “woman.” Some feel this is a cool distance between them, but when “woman” is used later in this Gospel, it is a term of warm reverence and high honor.

Necessity is the mother of invention. The mother of Jesus does not want her friend embarrassed and disgraced. Therefore, she prompts Jesus into action. After all, this is a happy time and it is one in which God’s glory ought to shine, rather than to let the hard realities of life become evident. Weddings are expensive and someone’s lack of resources does not need to be made evident on such a happy day. This day needs to be saved.

Jesus orders six stone water jars used for ceremonial washings to be filled. Perhaps they were empty, but since this is a public ceremony hands and faces were probably cleansed with the water contained in them. Nevertheless, they are filled. When the first sips are drawn from the jars, the headwaiter is surprised at the finest choice wine. The party can be extended because quality wine is abundant and saved for the very best. Everyone continues to celebrate because of the abundance of the wine. This day is to be remembered.

The wedding planners remember the joyous party and the parents of the newlyweds are probably ecstatic that they can extend their generosity well into the day. However, it is his mother and the servers that had drawn the water who know what happened. Anyone who is successful knows that you have to respect the workers who are responsible for carrying out the essential details. If you treat them properly, they will go out of their way to make your life better. Mutual respect goes a long way. Jesus reveals his actions to these servers that he knows will be sure to tell their friends. The miracle is also designed to show forth his power to his disciples, who begin to believe in both his words and his actions.

This passage is a favorite of many because they experience a lighter side of Jesus, except for that seemingly cold response to his mother. Many realize he is at a wedding where eating, drinking, and dancing goes on. He may have danced with the bride or had a ceremonial smoke with the groom. Telling stories, toasting the wedding party, and laughing at one’s good fortune are part of the festivities. One can almost see him wink at the servers when they discover that he changed water into wine. Six stone water jars hold a lot of wine. This might have been the wedding of the year.

No one should be surprised that the first miracle of Jesus was done during a happy occasion. It reveals that God’s love and generosity are boundless. It confirms the first reading by which God declares his steadfast commitment to his beloved people. We are not destined to be forsaken or desolate but to be a source of delight to God, who calls us into intimate union.  God will delight in being with his people. God will honor us just as an ideal married couple reverences one another. God intends to rejoice in us and show us his abundance in our new life together with plenty of happy times now and forever.

It is noteworthy that Jesus did not have his ‘coming out’ at a religious service or in a synagogue or the Temple. He did it in the ordinariness of human life. God is to be worshipped in our everyday occurrences. We learn to see the sacred in our common world. He proclaimed “the kingdom of heaven” is near – ushering in a kingdom-centered theology rather than a Temple-centered theology. He means to say that we are important to the kingdom. What we do is important. God is everywhere we gather and Jesus is at the center of our celebrations. With a wink of an eye, he can make something greater known to us and we just have to behold it with reverence. Surely, when we acknowledge his presence among us, even our cheapest tasting wine is enhanced. His presence makes life enjoyable and fun. To quote Peter Claver, S.J., “Seek the Lord in all things, and you will find him by your side.”

With an image of a laughing Jesus who delights in being with us, perhaps we can lighten up our prayer style. Allow God to enjoy you. Be the recipient of his love. You are worth it.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Hebrews, every high priest is taken from among the people and made their representative before God. Since he is beset by weakness, the priest is to make sin offerings for himself and the people. God wants you to eagerly show your zeal for the fulfillment of your hope and to be imitators of those who are inheriting the promises. The author is outlining the perfect qualities of the priesthood. Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God, meets Abraham as he returns from his defeat of the kings and blesses him. He is without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, and is made to resemble the Son of God as he remains a priest forever. Jesus is able to save those who approach God through him since he lives forever to make intercessions for them. ~ On Friday during the Conversion of Paul, Paul gives an account of his life before and after he encounters the Risen Lord. He is given the grace to follow him and lead his mission to the Gentiles. On Saturday, Paul greets Timothy, wishes him well, and conveys his greetings to other Christians of note.

Gospel: The disciples of Jesus are compared to the disciples of John, who fasted and kept dietary laws. Jesus further flaunts his disregard for dietary restrictions when he and his disciples pass through a field of grain on the Sabbath and pick the heads of grain. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue when he spots a man with a withered hand. He tests the people asking whether it is lawful to cure on the Sabbath. He heals the man anyways. Jesus withdraws to the sea, but a large number of people follow him. Word spreads that he is there and many more people come to listen to him and be healed. His disciples prepare a boat for him so the crowds do not crush him. He cures many and drives out unclean spirits while they shout out, “You are the Son of God.” ~ On Friday during the Conversion of Paul, the risen Jesus appears to the Eleven and sends them into the whole world to proclaim the Gospel to every creature.  On Saturday, on the feast of Timothy and Titus, Jesus comes home with his disciples into the house. A crowd gathers and his family is incensed. They said, “He is out of his mind.”

Saints of the Week

January 20: Fabian, pope and martyr (d. 250), was a layman and stranger in Rome during the time of his election as pope. A dove settled on his head, which reminded people of the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove during the baptism. He served for 14 years until his martyrdom.

January 20: Sebastian, martyr (d. 300), was buried in the catacombs in Rome. He hailed from Milan and is often pictured with many arrows piercing his body. Much of what we know about him is legend.

January 21: Agnes, martyr (d. 305), is one of the early Roman martyrs. Little is known about her but she died around age 12 during a persecution. Because of her names connection with a lamb, her iconography depicts her holding a lamb to remind us of her sacrifice and innocence.

January 23: Marianne Cope (1838-1918), was a German-born woman who settled with her family in New York. She entered the Franciscans and worked in the school systems as a teacher and principal and she helped to establish the first two Catholic hospitals. She went to Honolulu, then Molokai, to aid those with leprosy.

January 24: Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor (1567-1622), practiced both civil and canon law before entering religious life. He became bishop of Geneva in 1602 and was prominent in the Catholic Reformation. He reorganized his diocese, set up a seminary, overhauled religious education, and found several schools. With Jane Frances de Chantal, he founded the Order of the Visitation of Mary.

January 25: The Conversion of Paul, the Apostle, was a pivotal point in the life of the early church. Scripture contains three accounts of his call and the change of behavior and attitudes that followed. Paul's story is worth knowing as it took him 14 years of prayer and study to find meaning in what happened to him on the road to Damascus.

January 26: Timothy and Titus, bishops (1st century), were disciples of Paul who later became what we know of as bishops. Timothy watched over the people of Ephesus and Titus looked after Crete. Both men worked with Paul and became a community leader. Timothy was martyred while Titus died of old age.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jan 20, 1703. At Paris, the death of Fr. Francis de la Chaise, confessor to Louis XIV and a protector of the French Church against the Jansenists.
·      Jan 21, 1764. Christophe de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, wrote a pastoral defending the Jesuits against the attacks of Parliament. It was ordered to be burned by the public executioner.
·      Jan 22, 1561. Pius IV abrogated the decree of Paul II and kept the life term of Father General.
·      Jan 23, 1789. John Carroll gained the deed of land for the site that was to become Georgetown University.
·      Jan 24, 1645. Fr. Henry Morse was led as a prisoner from Durham to Newgate, London. On hearing his execution was fixed for February 1, he exclaimed: "Welcome ropes, hurdles, gibbets, knives, butchery of an infamous death! Welcome for the love of Jesus, my Savior."
·      Jan 25, 1707. Cardinal Tournon, Apostolic Visitor of the missions in China, forbade the use of the words 'Tien' or 'Xant' for God and ordered the discontinuance by the Christians of the Chinese Rites.
.    Jan 26, 1611. The first Jesuit missionaries sailed