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While Year A is known as the year of Matthew, since the Gospel readings during this year are taken mainly from the Gospel of Matthew, Year B is known as the Gospel of Mark, for the same reason. Year C, in which we are now, is the year of Luke. However, in all three years, the second Sunday in Ordinary time takes the reading from the Gospel of John. In year A, the text deals with the identification of Jesus by John. In year B, the text discusses the first disciples who follow Jesus and remain with him and, in this year, the text concerns the wedding feast at Cana and the turning of water into wine.
John’s placement of the story of the miracle at Cana, at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, gives it an added significance. This is so because it is the first public act Jesus performs in John’s Gospel. Thus, it serves as the inaugural event of the ministry of Jesus. It also serves as a forerunner of things to come. Numerous themes are highlighted in this miracle, like Jesus’ hour, his glory, the sign pointing to a deeper reality, and the faith of his disciples in him. All these serve to indicate how the miracle must be interpreted.
Some have interpreted the miracle as Jesus’ rejection of the waters of purification and hence, a symbol of Jesus’ rejection of Judaism. Others have interpreted it as the replacement of the old with the new. However, neither of these interpretations seems to fit the context. They seem to read into the text what is not actually there. The jars standing there are empty and so, there can be no question of rejection or replacement. They are filled with water on the instructions of Jesus and, filled “to the brim”. It is in these details that the interpretation must be sought. Therefore, two points are being made. The first is that the old vessels are filled with a wondrous new gift. The second is that this gift is not given in measure but given abundantly. With the coming of Jesus, gifts, like that of new wine, will be given in abundance.
That this is the better interpretation is confirmed by the scene of the intervention of Jesus’ mother and his response to her, in which he makes mention of his “hour”. Jesus’ response to Mary, while seemingly harsh, is not really so. It must be seen more as a form of disengagement. Jesus’ hour, the hour set by the Father, has not yet arrived. Thus, even his mother does not have claim over him and what he is to accomplish. This is determined by his Father, and by his Father alone. No human, no matter how close he/she might be to Jesus, can hasten it. Mary understands this and this is why her instruction to the stewards is “Do whatever he tells you”. Mary will leave Jesus free to act. Accordingly, Jesus acts freely at this “hour” and through this act, gives a glimpse of what he will accomplish when the hour set by the Father actually arrives. Here, he merely converts water into wine, which John refers to as a sign. It is a sign because it points to greater things that are to come. It points to a time when he will convert his body and blood into a living sacrifice of praise. He has come to bring abundance to his people; he has come to vindicate them; he has come to save them.
This is also the theme of the first reading of today in which Isaiah speaks of the people’s vindication and salvation because of the coming of the Lord. This vindication will be public and will be seen and witnessed by all, much like the miracle at Cana. Forsakenness and Desolation are things of the past. Now, the new and the novel have come and will remain. No longer will the negative hold sway over the people. This is because God brings, with his coming, all which is positive.
This vindication and salvation will remain at the theoretical level if it is not translated into action. Paul, in the second reading of today, shows how this must be. Two ways are indicated. The first is the recognition of the individual’s gifts, of which there is a wide variety. Each is blessed with a special talent and gift and, each of these is unique. There is no greater or lesser; there is no good or better. They are different and so, need not be compared. The second is that the gifts of the individual are not for him/her alone. The gifts of the individual are for the sake of the community since they have as their source and origin, one Lord. If the gifts are used for one’s own glorification and praise, they are of no consequence whatsoever. However, if they are used in humility, and for the sake of the community, then they become gifts of the one Spirit and of the one Lord.