January 20th 2019

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Contents:

  1. Parish Bulletin for Holy Family
  2. Newsletter for St Benedict's
  3. This Sunday's Readings
  4. Sunday Reflection

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This Sunday's Readings

First Reading  Isaiah 62:1-5

About Zion I will not be silent, about Jerusalem I will not grow weary, until her integrity shines out like the dawn and her salvation flames like a torch. The nations then will see your integrity all the kings your glory, and you will be called by a new name one which the mouth of the Lord will confer. You are to be a crown of splendour in the hand of the Lord, a princely diadem in the hand of your God; no longer are you to be named "Forsaken" nor your land "Abandoned" but you shall be called "My Delight" and your land "The Wedded", for the Lord takes delight in you and your land will have its wedding. Like a young man marrying a virgin, so will the one who built you wed you, and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you.



Second Reading  I Corinthians 12:4-11

There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are allsorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person 'is for a good purpose. One may have the gift of preaching with wisdom given him by the Spirit; another may have the gift of preaching instruction given him by the same Spirit; and another the gift of faith given by the same Spirit; another again the gift of healing, through this one Spirit; one, the power of miracles; another, prophecy; another the gift of recognising spirits; another the gift of tongues and another the ability to interpret them. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, who distributes different gifts to different people just as he chooses.




Gospel Reading    John 2:1-11

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." Jesus said, "Woman why turn to me? My hour has not come yet." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews; each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water," and they filled them to the brim. "Draw some out now" he told them "and take it to the steward." They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from - only the servants who had drawn the water knew - the steward called the bridegroom and said, "People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now."

This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.



Sunday Reflection 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Less Obvious Signs

The small town of Cana, in Galilee, is easily missed. In Biblical times it owed its existence and prosperity to a strategic oasis at the confluence of several prosperous trading routes. It did not have, nor has, any architectural or historical claim to fame. In today's language, Cana would have been classed as a 'pit stop' on a tourist route. However, it is the place of Jesus' first recorded miracle. John's Gospel for this 2nd. Sunday of the Church year (2:1-11) records the event.
In Cana, today, a small shrine, looked after by the Franciscans of the Holy Land, is thought to have been the location for the wedding, attended by the Mother of Jesus. John's "Jesus and his companions had also been invited" (2:2) carries the inference that Jesus was not the centre of attention.

John tells us that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a named guest at the Cana wedding. At the behest of his mother, Jesus came to the rescue of the embarrassed bride and groom. He caused water to become fine wine. Folklore tales of this miracle abound. Sadly, most have become completely detached from their Biblical source. This is true of many common gestures and invocations.
People, for example, unhesitatingly touch wood (or what they assume to be wood) when speaking. Few have any idea of why they make the gesture other than other family members or friends did so. Even the Baptised are sometimes stunned when you explain that the gesture of 'touching wood' originated with people of faith invoking God's blessing on their deepest desires by seeking to link them to The Wood of Christ's Cross.
Such moments of explanation - and they take but a moment or two - enable us to fulfil our Baptismal promise to "go and teach all nations". Jesus gave explanations to his companions thereby inviting them to do the same. See Luke 7:24-27 or Matthew 11:7-9.

Explaining the origin of common gestures and invocations may help other pilgrims on life's path recover what they had not even realised had been lost or stolen! It can be unsettling to discover how Satan, with devilish stealth, can steadily weaken an unwary Baptised's relationship with Jesus Christ until, finally, only the outer shell of words and gestures remain. Satan literally steals the heart out of a person's faith reducing words and actions to unthought-through rote expressions with no real content of faith in and love for Christ.

Jesus was continually alert to momentary opportunities for disseminating the Good News even in painful circumstances - see John 18: 28-40 / Luke 21: 1-4. When lengthier accompaniment was needed - as on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) - Jesus willingly gave it. We, too, given the opportunity can enlighten our fellow travellers perhaps helping to rekindle a doused faith. Such Christlike alertness requires us to be in daily communion with the Holy Spirit.

It would be understandable were we to focus on the 'water becoming fine wine' element of this Sunday's Gospel. But John the Evangelist has woven so much more into his text.
Notice how John never presents Mary by name. Instead he refers to her here and throughout his Gospel as 'the Mother of Jesus'. Could it be that John sees Mary's role as more symbolic than personal? John tells us that the Mother of Jesus was already at the (Cana) wedding before her Son and his companions arrived. The inference being that their inclusion was due to Jesus' Mother being a named guest. Is this John's way of underlining how Mary, herself representing the Old Covenant, is also the harbinger of the New Covenant manifested in the appearance on earth of God-made-Man in the person of her Son, Jesus?

Maybe these points will support our reflection. They are, in part, based on the writings of J. Mateos y Juan Barreto, "El Evangelio de Juan", Ediciones Chrstiandad, Madrid. 1979.

  • It is the Mother of Jesus, according to John, who sees that the supply of wine is exhausted. Having cast her as a representative of the faithful Israel, is John indicating that the Old Covenant has run its prescribed course?
  • John tells us how the Mother of Jesus turns to her Divine Son and presents the couple's predicament but proffers no solution. Our prayers of intercession often appear to be telling God what we need him to do. Are we being reminded that it is sufficient to bring before God the world's needs, as well as own, as we see them?
  • John tells us that there were six water jars, one short of the Biblical number of completeness namely, seven. Is he indicating the incompleteness of the Old Covenant while perhaps prompting us to consider if our fulfilment of our own Baptismal promises has slipped or even been derailed?
  • John describes the water jars as being made of stone. Amphorae would normally be of earthenware. Is John suggesting that our hearts, too, can become stone-like? - see Ezekiel 36:26.
  • The less-than-full jars held water for purification as laid down in the Old Testament. Is the emphasis on water purification a sign of the fragility of people's relationship with God stemming from a fixation with the Law and the human unworthiness it proved? (see Romans ch.7)
  • Is Cana the unremarkable setting in which the incompleteness of the Old Covenant meets with the first public evidence of the New Covenant? For sure, this shortage-plagued wedding feast was not the celebration for which people longed.

In recording the interaction between Jesus and his Mother, John continues to weave his teaching into the story. Jesus address his Mother as "Woman".
There are just three women in the Gospel whom Jesus addresses using the word 'Woman' - (1) Mary, his Mother, (John 2:4 and 19:26), (2) the Samaritan at the well (John 4:21) and (3) Mary Magdalene (John 20:13)
Respectively, they could represent (1) Israel as the faithful spouse; (2) the unfaithful Israel called to embrace conversion and (3) the people of the New Covenant - the Baptised as the spouse of the Risen Christ.

Jesus' response to his Mother's unspoken request was: "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come."
Jesus made it clear that while he had not come to revitalise the Old Covenant, his "hour" for the implementation of the new order had not yet arrived. By her response, his Mother fulfilled her prophetical role by turning to the servants and telling them: "Do whatever he tells you." In the Mother of Jesus' words can we hear a reflection of Israel's much earlier promise to God? "Everything the Lord has said we will do!" (Exodus 19:8)

John tells us, Jesus then initiated the first of his many 'signs' by which he would bring his mission to completion on the Cross on Calvary (John 19:30) At Cana, it was the generous provision of fine wine. On Calvary, it was the most generous provision of his life for our salvation.

Perhaps some of the foregoing may help you formulate an appropriate response when you next hear a reference to a 'water into wine' moment.