2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C
Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this
discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that
1st Reading - Isaiah 62:1-5
Isaiah, the greatest of the prophets, lived during the period 759-694
B.C. He was of the tribe of Judah and his home was in Jerusalem. The
kingdom was divided and Israel, the northern kingdom, was occupied by
the Assyrians. Judah, the southern kingdom, although not occupied, is
an Assyrian vassal state. In about the year 704, Egyptian ambassadors
came to Jerusalem with presents and fine words to persuade the Judean
king (Hezekiah) to break with the Assyrian king and to join a coalition
against him. The king of Babylon has already been won over, and the
Philistines are to be approached. A concentrated attack is to be
launched against Assyria. All Jerusalem seems to favor the alliance
– all Jerusalem that is, except Isaiah who knew that faith in the
power of Yahweh would save the nation and that an appeal to an outside
nation was an insult to Yahweh. If the alliance were made, bad things
would happen to Judah. Isaiah even went so far as to discard his outer
garment and put on that of a prisoner of war – he then walked
barefoot through the streets of Jerusalem with a sign that said
“So shall the king of the Assyrians lead away the prisoners of
Egypt.” The king of Judah (Hezekiah) joined the alliance and the
Assyrians marched down the Mediterranean coast, driving Egyptians and
Philistines before them and taking city after city. The Assyrian king
laid siege to Jerusalem and demanded an unconditional and immediate
surrender. Now, the people crowded the courts of the temple, falling
all over each other in their eagerness to make peace with God with
their offerings. Isaiah, whose trust in God had never wavered, was
praying in the Temple when King Hezekiah implored him to intercede with
God in behalf of the Holy City. Isaiah assured the king that the
Assyrian king would not occupy or otherwise harm Jerusalem. Holy
scripture records: “Says the Lord: ‘For I will defend this
city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant
David.’ Then the angel of the Lord set out and struck down
185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were
all dead bodies. Then the king of Assyria left, went home”
(Isaiah 37:35-37). The afflictions which had come upon the people
of Judah and Jerusalem were of their own making. By their wickedness
they had drawn down upon themselves the wrath of Yahweh. Beneath
an outward show of prosperity lay rottenness – commercial greed,
extortion and graft, oppression of the poor, spendthrift luxury,
drunkenness, glaring immorality. Isaiah strikes relentlessly at these
vices of his people. He seeks to startle the nation into repentance and
reform by predicting the doom that God is preparing for it, if it
perseveres in its wickedness. But Isaiah is not merely the prophet of
doom; he is also the prophet of hope and consolation. Many words of
comfort are spoken to the people in the dark hours of affliction.
Recall that the role of a prophet is not that of a soothsayer –
he does not predict the future. The prophet’s role it to monitor
the status of the covenant with God – to warn of the curses which
will come if the covenant is not kept and to point to the blessings
which will come through obedience. As Peter Kreeft says “A
prophet is like a finger – we are not to look at him, but to
where he points.”
Today’s reading points to the glorious future which is in store
for the faithful in the new Zion – the new Jerusalem. If it
sounds familiar, we heard it last at the Vigil of Christmas.
62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
The names Zion and Jerusalem are interchangeable. The city of Jerusalem
is built upon Mount Zion while the Temple is on Mount Moriah.
Until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch.
The day of vindication of God (Isaiah 61:2) shines brightly and quickly
like a desert sunrise (Isaiah 60:1). Never did this hope seem closer to
fulfillment than on the feast of Tabernacles, when lights were kindled
“at the place of the water drawing” so bright that
“there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that was not illuminated
by the light of the place.” The temple of Solomon was dedicated
at the feast of Tabernacles and the Ark of the Covenant was introduced
into Jerusalem by David at this feast. According to the Talmud, people
lived in booths for the seven days of the feast. On the first night the
temple area was brightly illuminated by lamps and torches and
ceremonial dancing was done. Tabernacles are seen by some scholars as a
renewal of the covenant as there was a regular reading of the Law.
2 Nations shall behold your vindication, and all kings your glory; You
shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the LORD. 3
You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD, a royal diadem
held by your God.
A diadem is a crown worn as a sign of royalty. This image refers back
to the ancient practice of showing the local deity wearing a crown
which was patterned after the city walls. Yahweh holds His crown in His
hands because Jerusalem is His possession.
4 No more shall men call you “Forsaken,” or your land “Desolate,”
When the covenant with Yahweh is violated, the curses are called down upon the people (Leviticus 26:21-22; 2 Chronicles 24:20).
But you shall be called “My Delight,” and your land “Espoused.”
The promises of Hosea 2:18-20 are not forgotten, even though Israel has had adulterous relationships with Baals.
For the LORD delights in you, and makes your land his spouse. 5 As a
young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; And as a
bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.
Adulterous Israel is restored to that joyful, innocent age of long ago
when she was God’s virgin spouse. This marriage theme evokes
thoughts of the marriage feast at Cana (our Gospel reading for today)
and the marriage feast of the Lamb (Revelation 21:1-4). The Church, the
new Israel, is the bride of Christ as foretold in Hosea 2:16-20 (Hosea
2:18-22 in the New American Bible and New Jerusalem Bible).
2nd Reading - 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
In Saint Paul’s time, Corinth was the capital of the province of
Achaia and the seat of the Roman proconsul. Julius Caesar built it (44
B.C.) on the ruins of a Greek city of the same name. It had two ports
– one in the Aegean Sea and one on the Gulf of Lepanto. Its
excellent geographical position soon made it a prominent center of
commerce, with a much higher standard of living than its neighbors. It
was also a loose living city, rendering religious cult to the goddess
Venus, a serious threat to those, Jews or Christians, who worshiped the
Saint Paul established a Christian community at Corinth during his
second missionary journey (A.D. 50-52). He preached the Gospel there
for 12 years, aided by Silas and Timothy. Due to his remarkable zeal,
quite a number of people were converted to the true faith, some of them
Jews. Very soon many Jews in the city became openly hostile to the
Apostle’s preaching, but since they had little social influence
they failed to obstruct his work. This may explain why the proconsul
Gallio refused to listen to the charges they brought against him (Acts
More data are available on the social makeup of the Corinthian church
than of any other. There was a solid nucleus of Jews but many pagans.
The very top and bottom of the Greco-Roman social scale are absent. The
social status of most is shot through with ambiguity – they rate
high in some areas but low in others, e.g., rich but female (Phoebe), a
city official but an ex-slave (Erastus), a skilled artisan but a Jew
with a wife of higher social rank (Aquila). Fueled by frustration, such
individuals did not cease to question and explore once they had
accepted Christianity, and so generated a greater diversity of problems
for Paul than any other church. In particular, they welcomed other
visions of Christianity and competed with one another for spiritual
Saint Paul was in Ephesus when three influential Corinthians brought
him a letter in which they and others asked for guidance on matters
they found problematic. They probably explained and expanded on the
information contained in the letter, asking him to go quickly to
Corinth. Saint Paul preferred to postpone going to Corinth in order to
give everyone more time for reflection and repentance – this is
why he wrote his first letter, shortly before Easter 57. It is not a
doctrinal treatise like Romans – it is more like an
acknowledgment of their letter and answers about the things which were
In our reading today Paul addresses the gifts of the Spirit and answers
the Corinthian question of the hierarchy of spiritual gifts. Paul had
discerned an egocentric competitiveness that was detrimental to Church
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; 5
there are different forms of service but the same Lord; 6 there are
different workings but the same God who produces all of them in
everyone. 7 To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given
for some benefit.
Since all of the gifts have a common origin they should serve a common purpose.
“Since no one has the capacity to receive all spiritual gifts,
but the grace of the Spirit is given proportionately to the faith of
each, when one is living in community with others, the grace privately
bestowed on each individual becomes the common possession of the
others. ... One who receives any of these gifts does not possess it for
his own sake but rather for the sake of others.” [Saint Basil the
Great (ca. A.D. 370), Rules Treated At Length 7]
8 To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to
another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to
another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the
one Spirit; 10 to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another
discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another
interpretation of tongues.
The list of gifts is not exhaustive (see also 1 Corinthians 12:27-30;
Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11). Precise definitions are impossible and
many of the meanings which have been assumed are arbitrary.
11 But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.
Since the same Spirit distributes (gives) and produces (makes them
operate), no one should be puffed up with pride – all is given
for the common good. One who possesses a gift and does not share it not
only deprives themselves of its benefits, they deprive the entire
community and the gift is lost.
“It belongs to God’s justice that He divides and to His
power that He divides according to His will or because He wishes to
give to each one what He knows will be of profit.” [Saint
Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 385), Letter to Bishop 20]
Gospel - John 2:1-11
Our reading for today is the familiar wedding feast at Cana. It takes
place on the third day from John 1:43. To understand the imagery
involved, we must go back to John 1:1: “In the
beginning...” This is Genesis imagery. John 1:29: “the next
day”; John 1:35: “the next day”; John 1:43:
“the next day”, which makes it the fourth day; then
today’s reading “the third day”. The third day, the
day of resurrection, occurs on the seventh day of the Genesis imagery;
the day of covenant when God’s new creation, Jesus, manifests His
2:1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
Cana is located near (within nine miles of) Nazareth which is where Mary was when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
2 Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
Marriage feasts were family affairs – the fact that Mary and
Jesus and His disciples had been invited suggests that they were
related to either the bride or groom. The marriage feast lasted for a
week – quite a lot of mouths to feed.
3 When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
Mary’s observation to our Lord is not precisely a request for a
miracle, although she is obviously counting on the resourcefulness of
her Son. Her concern suggests again that the feast is for a close
relative who will be embarrassed.
4 (And) Jesus said to her, “Woman,
Nowhere in any of the Gospels does Jesus address Mary as
“mother.” To address someone as “woman” is not
disrespectful, it would be like calling her “madam” in a
formal setting. In Genesis imagery however, this is the name given to
Eve before the fall when she was still sinless and pure in God’s
eyes. Mary is the New Eve, conceived sinless and sinless throughout her
how does your concern affect me?
Literally, “what to me and to you” – the precise
meaning must be determined from the context. It is not a rebuttal or
rebuke. The oriental way of speaking (Jerusalem is part of Asia, not
Europe) can have different nuances. Jesus’ reply seems to
indicate that although in principle it was not part of God’s plan
for Him to use His power to solve the problem the wedding feast has run
into, our Lady’s request moves Him to do precisely that. Also,
one could surmise that God’s plan was that Jesus should work the
miracle at His mother’s request.
My hour has not yet come.”
The term “hour” is sometimes used by Jesus to designate the
moment of His coming in glory (see John 5:28), but generally it refers
to the time of His passion, death and resurrection (see John 7:30;
12:23; 13:1; 17:1).
5 His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Mary knows perfectly what her son’s reply means – though to
us it is ambiguous – she is confident that Jesus will come to the
family’s (His family’s?) rescue. She has complete
confidence in Jesus’ ability to resolve the problem. She
addresses the servants in the words of Genesis 41:55.
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
Jewish customs demanded washings before and after eating (Greek:
baptismois). Stone was used because in Jewish belief stone could not
contract ritual uncleanliness.
each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
6 x 20 = 120 gallons; a lot of water, soon to become wine
7 Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.”
Jesus’ directions to the servants indicates that He had some
special relationship with the host family – one does not go
around giving orders to other people’s servants.
So they filled them to the brim.
The fact that they were filled “to the brim” emphasizes the
superabundance of the riches of redemption and also shows how precisely
the servants did what they were told – it is important to be
docile in fulfilling the will of God, even in small details.
Christ’s word alone is sufficient to effect the change and there
are now 120 to 180 gallons of top quality wine.
8 Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the
headwaiter.” So they took it. 9 And when the headwaiter tasted
the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from
(although the servers who had drawn the water knew),
Can you imagine the sniggering which must have been going on among the
servers? They know that this is water which has been used for washing
the feet of the guests; and now they are seeing the headwaiter drink
the headwaiter called the bridegroom 10 and said to him,
“Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk
freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until
At Gentile banquets one of the guests usually assumed the position of
“master of the banquet” as a mark of honor. The familiarity
with which this headwaiter addresses the bridegroom may indicate that
the Jews followed a similar custom.
11 Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee
The word “sign” repeatedly appears in the first half of
John’s gospel. Pre-eminent among these are Jesus’ miracles,
of which John records only seven. They are called “signs”
not only because they worked to encourage belief, but because they
signify Christ for what He is.
and so revealed his glory,
Although The Word concealed His glory in becoming flesh, the Gospel is
witness to its having been perceived by men. The Gospel is testimony
not to the Eternal Word but to the Word Become Flesh.
and his disciples began to believe in him.
This whole story, set in a Genesis format in John’s gospel, also has a common theme:
Chapter 1 - The baptism of Jesus
Chapter 2 - The first miracle - baptismois
Chapter 3 - The encounter with Nicodemus - baptize with water and the
Spirit. In 3:22 it appears that Jesus baptizes – the only note of
His so doing in Holy Scripture.
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org