The Gospel for this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time brings us back to the beginning of Jesus’s public life with the story of the wedding at Cana, the first public miracle or sign as John calls them.
There are a number of questions to get tangled up with in this story. Like how come those hosting the celebration ran out of wine? How did Mary find out about it? And the interchange between Jesus and his mother Mary raises an eyebrow. Mary makes an observation: they have run out of wine. Whether it was the tone of voice or the look in her eyes, but Jesus got that she expected him to do something about it. His response reminds me of the look I get from my young-adult daughter when I remind her that dog needs a walk or that there is garbage that could be taken out. “How does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come."With classically good parenting skills, Mary avoids getting caught up in the argument, and simply tells the attendants to do what Jesus says. And we know how it ends, with six large jars of water now wine, indeed the best wine. And the wedding party saved.
But there is a final sentence in the story that is key to understanding it and fruitful for our own reflections. John writes: “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.”
And so revealed his glory and his disciples began to believe in him. This is a theme in John’s Gospel – the notion of glory and that the signs that Jesus performed revealed Jesus’s glory, a glory that is participating in the glory of God. Jesus’s act of kindness, his responding to a family in need glorified God and led his disciples to begin to believe in him.
The idea that the glory of God is dynamic and expansive can be traced within our Old Testament reading as well. At this point in Isaiah, the Israelites time in exile is over. They have returned to their own land as a people God has freed. Through this action Israel is led out of bondage and, as Isaiah writes, “Nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory.” As in the Gospel, it is the action of God that brings glory to Israel – a glory that reflects the gracious glory of God.
Now, we could do a word study on the use of the word “glory” in John’s Gospel or in Isaiah, but the more important theological question we ask: So what? So what does this mean for how I live my life, raise my children, spend my money – how I live my faith. Let me propose three points to reflect on:
First, the reading from Isaiah highlights the saving, liberating action of God through which the glory of Israel and ultimately the glory of God is reveled. The writer of this section of Isaiah says:
No more shall people call you "Forsaken, "
or your land "Desolate, "
but you shall be called "My Delight, "
and your land "Espoused."
What struck me is how important it is that the Israelites accepted the new naming. They had experienced themselves as forsaken and desolate for so long that fully embracing this new reality could well be a challenge. The challenge for us is similar. How well do we embrace the notion of ourselves as beloved of God, as one who reveals God’s glory? This invites us into a response of humble gratitude. So that is the first of the implications for lived Christian faith: fostering a sense of gratitude in response to God’s love for us.
Second, as we return to the Gospel, we see that Jesus’s actions were low key, drama free, and a simple response of kindness. But what power was behind that action – changing water into wine. And we know from the Gospels that Jesus transformed lives in these gestures of kindness, forgiveness, healing. While I am not reducing the call of the Gospel to simply being nicer to one another, there is a reminder here that these gestures of care and compassion are central to how we live the Gospel. Revealing the glory of God is done in small ways as well as through changes in structures and preaching the Gospel in words. We reveal God’s presence and glory in the everyday actions of life, through the kindnesswe express particularly to those on the margins.
Third, if we look now to the beginning of the Gospel story we’re reminded that it was Mary who set that work into action. What led her to invite Jesus to take action that day, to respond to the need at hand? Perhaps she recognized a change in him, a new sense of purpose. While Jesus might have protested “My hour has not yet come,” Mary did not think so. So Mary models for us a third way in which we reflect the God’s presence and glory: by encouraging, inviting, nurturing others to use the gifts they have received, gifts given for the good of all and the glory of God. Through bringing words of encouragement and hope to those whose voices are not yet heard, or to those who think their hour hasn’t or won’t come, we contribute to an awareness of God’s presence in the world. We can reveal God’s glory by reminding ourselves and others that the nurturing ‘moms’ in our lives are usually right.
As we move into the second week in ordinary time, may we be those who intentionally reflect God’s glory through a sense of gratitude, through actions of kindness, and by nurturing within one another the voices that preach the Gospel in word and action.
Jane E. Regan
Dr. Jane E Regan is Associate Professor of Theology at the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College and Director of Continuing Education for the School of Theology and Ministry. Her academic background, which includes a PhD in religious education from the Catholic University of America, is complemented by her educational and pastoral work. She has been involved in religious education at the diocesan and national levels for many years. Dr. Regan is a nationally recognized speaker with a particular focus on adult faith formation and catechetical leadership.
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