Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jan. 16)

“Wow,” I said, “this is amazing.” I was in post-graduate studies at the time, actually spending a semester in Jerusalem. My classmates were from different countries but the house language was English. I was the only American and there were two other first-language English speakers in the group of 30. The first two weeks of the semester were spent visiting biblical sites in Jerusalem and Galilee. It was an incredible time.

All the sites we hear about, read about and pray about were right there. It was an incredible semester. I must have been saying “wow” a lot because at one point the group I was with all started laughing. I said, “What are you laughing for?” They said, “You Americans say that a lot.” It was a funny interchange and perhaps the expression “wow” is overused but it does capture something incredible; something so great that it’s hard to describe.

Perhaps “wow” or “isn’t that amazing” could be our response to hearing the Gospel account for Sunday’s liturgy. Sometimes we are so familiar with the Gospel accounts that we might fail to embrace the wonder of it all.

It’s truly amazing what Jesus did at that wedding feast. The water jar would have been quite large and there were six of them. Not only that, when the headwaiter tastes the wine, not knowing where it came from, he says to the bridegroom: “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Amazing.

There is another amazing part of the story – the role of the Blessed Mother. Notice how she intercedes on behalf of the family. We all might have a sense of the shame that would befall a family should they run out of food or drink at a feast they were hosting. It would be quite embarrassing. I gather that in the ancient world it might have even been more so.

Regardless, they were in a predicament. Mary’s compassion is seen in her noticing and acting. The account does not indicate that anyone told her or asked for her help. She saw and went to her son. This too is amazing.

Jesus does as his mother asks and ushers in a new day, a day of vindication. St. John the Evangelist concludes his recounting of the event with these words: “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.” The “sign” or miracle points to something even greater than the water becoming fine wine.

Something is happening here more than the miracle itself. It points to God’s saving activity happening in the midst of ordinary human life. Weddings are a big part of life. Not just for the bride and groom but the whole family and community. It’s a regular part of life.

Something unusual and unique happened there in Cana that points ahead. In this gathering of joy and celebration, God acts. Later we will see that he also acts in situations that are not so joyful. Yet it is the same love that motivates, directs and guides his saving activity.

Isaiah speaks, in the first reading for today’s liturgy, of the day of vindication. The time when Israel and Jerusalem’s trials and sufferings will be over. The exploits of the nations who oppress them will be finished. They will not only be free but they will know the Lord’s presence and love. They will be a “glorious crown in the hand of the Lord.” They shall be the “delight” of the Lord and his “espoused.”

The Lord will rejoice in his people and “nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory.” The light of this day was seen in Cana of Galilee.

The second reading, a passage from First Corinthians, also speaks of an amazing fact. God’s saving activity is continued in each of the baptized. St. Paul writes: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.”

Through the pouring forth of the Spirit, first given at Pentecost, the adopted sons and daughters of God are endowed with spiritual gifts. Some of these are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, mighty deeds and discernment of spirits. Through these gifts God’s work of love is accomplished.

St. Paul is clear that not everyone receives the same gifts but they are given for the benefit of all. As adopted children of God (through union with the one Son of God in baptism) we become one family, one communion. The gifts are given so that everyone can share in the love of God in and through each other. “But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.”

God is the giver of the gifts, and he gives so his plan of love can be accomplished for all. Amazing.

God’s love for us is truly amazing. His saving activity continues today. He has vindicated us and continues to pour out his love. At times this happens in extraordinary ways but more often through the daily interactions inspired, motivated and propelled by the Spirit – the simple acts of love, kindness, compassion and mercy. Perhaps this week we should allow ourselves to be amazed and inspired.

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Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.