Dominica II per Annum C
20 January 2019
Towards the end of the Christmas season the Church observes the great solemnity of the Epiphany. “Epiphany” is a word coming from the Greek meaning “manifestation,” a “showing,” or an “appearance.” In the context of our faith we observe that the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth is a manifestation, a showing, among mankind of God’s divine presence because Jesus is God-made-man. In these weeks after the Solemnity of the Epiphany we have actually a season of epiphanies presented in the gospel selections. The visit of the Magi is followed a week later by the gospel of Jesus’ baptism where God the Father calls him “Son,” and God the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the River Jordan. And after that epiphany, a week later we have the gospel of the miracle at Cana this weekend. A traditional hymn for Epiphany shows us just how broadly the Church has always viewed the Epiphany, all the events wrapped up in it, whereas we tend to view it only as the visit of the Magi. That hymn is titled “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise.” Listen to the verses:
“Songs of thankfulness and praise,
Jesus, Lord, to Thee we raise,
Manifested by the star
To the sages from afar;”
That sounds like what we tend to expect from an Epiphany hymn, right? But then the verses continue:
“Manifest at Jordan’s stream,
Prophet, Priest, and King supreme;”
That’s last week’s observance of the Baptism of Jesus. And the verse continues:
“And at Cana, wedding guest,
In Thy Godhead manifest;
Manifest in power divine,
Changing water into wine;
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.”
The birth of Jesus, the visit of the Magi, the baptism, and the first miracle at Cana are indeed epiphanies, manifestations, showings, that God has come in Jesus of Nazareth.
A profoundly rich lesson is ours this week, a lesson we will never stop returning to in order to deepen our faith. The lesson is stated beautifully in the first reading: “For the Lord delights in you…. 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.” You see, God established marriage to be a sign of the covenant relationship He desires to make with His people, with each of us. The Bible begins and ends with a wedding (Adam & Eve’s as reported in the Book of Genesis and the marriage supper of the Lamb as John’s vision reports in the Book of Revelation). God Himself is the Groom and mankind is His beloved bride, the one He beholds, pursues, and delights in. This is God’s consistent covenant image throughout all of Scripture. And so, Jesus manifests his presence as God in the midst of the celebration of spousal love at Cana in Galilee. The miracle of turning water into wine shows Jesus’ power and it reminds us that bride and groom are to permit God to be an active presence in their marriage and family life. The place that husband and wife are called to permit God to have in their married life is, as it was at Cana, ordered to making new disciples. At Cana Jesus’ first miracle led his disciples to begin the journey of belief. Likewise, in marriage the faithful love of husband and wife is intended both to inspire others to believe in Jesus the Bridegroom who delights in us, and the faithful love of husband and wife is to literally make disciples of the children that they should always be open to receive from God, as a result of spousal sexual love, which God made to be good.
Believers should not view marriage as simply a common arrangement. Burdened by an excessively secular vision, we often do not understand nor easily accept that marriage is a vocation, ordered to drawing others into the family of God by serving as an example that gathers others into the Catholic Church. And, more directly, our age does not understand nor does it easily accept that marriage is a vocation ordered to drawing others into the family of God by keeping married love in its every act open to life so that new children may literally become disciples by baptism and ongoing formation. What might help us more easily accept all that the Church holds about Holy Matrimony? Actually, even more broadly, what might help us accept all of the Church’s vision for life in this world and life in the next? I suggest the starting point is the beautiful and foundational message of today’s Scriptures: Namely, that God delights in you! God looks at you with the thrill and anticipation with which a young man looks upon his bride! He unites Himself to you in Christ Jesus! He rejoices in you! No disciple can ever be finished returning to this lesson and diving more deeply into the rich message of God’s love for us manifested in Christ. By returning to the depth of Christ’s love for us, how can we NOT be interested in what His Church teaches about the vocation of marriage? How can we NOT be moved to leave behind the ways of sin in order to seek the superior wine of God’s love? Have you stopped recently to meditate upon the magnitude of the love Christ has for you? One image for the magnitude of his love is six stone water jars each holding twenty to thirty gallons! That’s 120 to 180 gallons of good wine, an image of God’s love, God’s joy, God’s Spirit placed in us!
The gospel shows us that Jesus is ready to manifest his divine power for us. The gospel shows us Mary in her twofold work of bringing needs to Jesus and rightly instructing us: “Do whatever he tells you.” Yet what will determine how many “gallons” of grace is produced in us? Like the servers in the Gospel we too have a response to make to Jesus’ desire for us. The servers didn’t simply put some water in the six jars; rather, in obedience, they filled them to the brim! In all of our inferior ways, in our poverty and weakness, in our emptiness, we have an invitation to bring ourselves completely to Jesus so as to be filled by him. Each disciple is called to obedience to Jesus so as to produce the greatest volume of superior vintage possible.
The invitation to us is to never let the joy of Jesus’ presence and love run dry in us by turning away to drink from other jars, or by turning to the false affections of other loves, of idols. Rather, we are constantly instructed by Mary to “Do whatever he tells you” so that we may strengthen our belief in Jesus and live always in the joy of our Divine Spouse.