January 16, 2022
Revised Common Lectionary
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Psalm 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10 (3)
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Like many couples attempting to plan the perfect wedding, Sean and Greg were attentive to every detail imaginable. One of the many items on their list was a wedding cake that would not only taste great but would also be a visual work of art, reflecting important themes in their lives. They searched for just the right baker to create this important symbol to be viewed and shared by family and friends. What could go wrong?
On the day of the wedding, as the delivery van was making its way to the site of the celebration, the driver was forced to make a sudden stop to avoid an accident, and—you guessed it—the cake tumbled over. While it could still be sliced and eaten, it was no longer in any condition to be displayed publicly. A very persistent wedding coordinator was able to persuade the bakery department at a nearby grocery store to make an emergency delivery so that Sean and Greg could still carry out the ritual cutting of an intact cake. A wedding disaster turned into a story that will forever remind the newly married couple and their guests of the joy they experienced on that day.
In today’s reading from the Gospel of John, we find Jesus, his mother, and the disciples attending a wedding at Cana in Galilee, not far from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. Disaster was looming when the wine ran out.
The mother of Jesus (never identified by name in John) makes him aware of the problem and seems to suggest that he should help: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). His response comes across as reluctant, even detached: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4). As the story continues, it’s clear that he was nudged just a bit and that he may have changed his mind, but it is also clear that Jesus’ act of compassion for the couple and their guests flowed from a deep awareness of the mission on which he has been sent.
This story of water-made-wine is rich with layers of meaning. In this first of his signs, Jesus’ hour had not yet arrived—and in fact would not come until he was “lifted up” on the cross. Significantly, the water vessels were not ordinary containers; rather, they were the type used for ritual purifications. The transformation of plain water in these ritual jars into fine wine prefigured Jesus’ consistent characterization of religious leadership and practice as empty vessels, reflecting a culture that valued ritual form over change of heart. Jesus would not only challenge this kind of religion but also would set about the work of transforming it.
For me, perhaps the most appealing aspect of this story is the affirmation of joy and gladness that is reflected in the sign of water turned into wine. This same theme is expressed as well in the other three canonical Gospels, which often portray God’s reign as a wedding feast, with abundant food and wine.
Jesus is the wedding guest who ushers in a new creation, transforming hearts and preparing God’s great feast for all. Can we imagine a future in which all people are invited to eat and drink freely—and not just the cheap stuff, but the finest vintage? Will we accept the invitation to join in—and will we extend that invitation to others who may be left out or in need of the joy to which Jesus beckons us?
A Hymn for Today: “Jesus, Come! For We Invite You”
Anglican priest Christopher Idle wrote the following text for this very Sunday in 1979 when he was a parish rector. While appropriate for weddings, it deals primarily with the transforming power of Christ that is revealed at the wedding in Cana.
Jesus, come! for we invite you,
Guest and master, friend and Lord;
Now, as once at Cana’s wedding,
Speak, and let us hear your word:
Lead us through our need or doubting,
Hope be born and joy restored.
Jesus, come! transform our pleasures,
Guide us into paths unknown;
Bring your gifts, command your servants,
Let us trust in you alone:
Though your hand may work in secret,
All shall see what you have done.
Jesus, come! in new creation,
Heav’n brought near by pow’r divine;
Give your unexpected glory
Changing water into wine;
Rouse the faith of your disciples—
Come, our first and greatest Sign!
Jesus, come! surprise our dullness,
Make us willing to receive
More than we can yet imagine,
All the best you have to give;
Let us find your hidden riches,
Taste your love, believe, and live!
Text: Christopher M. Idle, b. 1938, © 1982, The Jubilate Group (admin. by Hope Publishing Company). Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857
Tunes: BEST GIFT, SICILIAN MARINERS, UNION SEMINARY
Image Credit: Wedding Feast, John August Swanson, 1996
“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.
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