2nd Sunday Year C
Sunday 16th January 2022
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
Jn 2: 1-12
On the third day, there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, how does that concern us? My time hasn’t yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever he tells to you, do it!’
Now there were six stone water containers there that were used for ritual purification, each holding about 40 litres. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the containers with water,’ and they filled them right up to the brim. ‘Now take some out and serve it to the Master of Ceremonies and they did this. Now when the MC tasted it, it was wine, but he didn’t know what had happened, though the servants did. He then commended the bridegroom, ‘Everyone serves the best wine first, so that when all are a bit full, they won’t notice the poorer wine, but you, you have kept the best wine till now!’
This was the first of the signs that Jesus did, at Cana in Galilee. In it, Jesus revealed his glory and his disciples believed in him. After this, Jesus went down to Capernaum, he with his mother, brothers and disciples and they stayed there for a few days.
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
O sing to the Lord a new song,
all the earth sing to God!
O sing to God and bless his name.
Each day proclaim his salvation
declaring his glory to unbelievers,
proclaiming his wonders to all nations.
Give to God, all families of people,
give to God glory and power,
give God the glory of his name.
Come into his temple, bringing your offering,
worship God in the beauty of his holiness,
in awe, with all peoples.
Proclaim to the nations the kingdom of God.
He will judge all peoples with justice.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, you know that they are places in my life where the joy seems to have run out, places of darkness, fear or just plain boredom. Send your Son Jesus to transform those places with the life and joy of his Holy Spirit. May I be open to his words of life and do whatever he tells me.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
In the carefully constructed work of the Gospel of John, this first sign clearly introduces the rest of Jesus’ signs yet, surprisingly, unlike the rest, there is no commentary unfolding its meaning. Rather this is to be found in its links with the rest of the Gospel and Jewish symbolism. Immediately preceding this, John has witnessed to Jesus and the first disciples have been called. Now in what seems almost a domestic incident, we see Jesus interacting with his mother. Nowhere is she called by her name. She will appear again, described in the same way, standing by when Jesus dies on the cross, the greatest of the signs and indeed their fulfilment. In spite of a rebuff from him, she shows herself the true disciple, faithful and obedient to his word and telling others to be the same. This miracle introduces a section in the early part of the Gospel that will conclude with the second sign, another miracle at Cana. In between, we are shown a series of people responding to Jesus: Nicodemus and John the Baptist from within Israel, the Samaritan woman from without. All believe in Jesus in differing ways to differing degrees. The section concludes with the belief of the royal official and the cure of his son. After this John introduces the first opposition to the revelation of Jesus.
With the mention of ‘the third day’ the reader of the Gospel is reminded on both the revelation of God on Mt Sinai (Ex 18:9) and the resurrection of Jesus on the third day. The stone water jars for ritual purification are symbols of Jewish religious practices which while good, are limited. Wine, in the Psalms, was regarded as a gift of God, intended to bring joy to the human heart. It was also a sign of the fullness of joy of the Messianic kingdom. With the use of this symbolism, John is alerting the reader to the profound transformation of faith that will come about in Jesus. What has merely cleansed the person of faith, is now about to be radically changed into joy, and the means by which a person is to enter into that new life is by a faith, that is expressed in obedience to the words of Jesus.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
Can you imagine what Mary said to Jesus as they were walking away from the feast? I think it would be along the lines of: ‘A few cases of wine, yes, but barrels full!’ And I think his reply would have been along the lines of, ‘Get used to it!’ Abundance! That is what Jesus is about in John’s Gospel – living water to the Samaritan woman, bread from heaven to the crowds, light of the world to the man born blind, life forever to Mary and Martha! Far more than anyone could have hoped or imagined.
The crucial symbol in this miracle story is those six stone water jars. They were used for ritual religious purification. At best, they provided a physical sign of a person’s desire to be clean before God. Which is about all ‘our’ religious practices can do – stress our weakness and failure and show our desire to be better. But Jesus wants to offer more. Wine is said, in the Psalms, to be the gift of God, given to cheer the human heart. It was also the sign of messianic fullness and joy. In giving an abundance of the best wine, Jesus was signalling the rich, full life that he wants to offer.
But do we accept it? Christians get a bad press in our current society. Too often, we are presented as sad, serious, even ‘party poopers’. And, sad to say, I think there are grounds for this. We do come across as miserable. If we practice our religion focussing on ourselves, all we have in our jars is water – and that is too thin for joy. We have to change our focus to the grace being offered by God, then we will find that we can do whatever Jesus tells us, and that amazing transformations can take place, even in and sometimes in spite of the worst of situations.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
This is an extraordinary story – quite unlike any miracle in the synoptic Gospels and quite unlike anything else in John’s Gospel. It is carefully constructed and with John’s deliberate use of his significant terms ‘hour’, ‘sign’, ‘glory’, ‘revealed’ we realise that he is introducing the primary themes he will use in Jesus’ public revelation – except that the revelation here isn’t very public. This event takes place out the back of the feast, in the service area, with the mother of Jesus as the centre of the story. The bridegroom and the wedding guests, while recipients of Jesus’ largesse, know nothing. The only ones in the ‘know’ are the servants and the disciples. So what did they see? The example of the mother of Jesus as disciple. In spite of a sharp rebuke by Jesus, she believes and gives a crucial command of this Gospel: “Do whatever he tells you.” As the Word was made flesh in Jesus, so his words are to be made flesh in obedient actions. That the mother of Jesus is shown as his model disciple is confirmed when she appears at the cross, when the ‘hour’ has come, the ‘signs’ are fulfilled and his ‘glory’ is fully revealed.
So what about that rebuke? This is one of the lines of scripture that has spawned myriad explanations, none fully satisfactory. This is my take on the text. When Jesus rebukes his mother, he is telling her that his life is to be determined by the ‘hour’, the time of the fulfilment of the Father’s plans. Once she realises that, he can then go ahead with the miracle, or not. In a real sense, it is analogous to the times when we pray for things. They will be given, God willing, if they are for our ultimate good. The primary emphasis for us is not whether or not our prayers, demands, are met but rather that we too do whatever Jesus tells us.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
- The Wedding Feast of Cana (click red text).
- In this fresco by Giotto (click red text) Mary and Jesus are at opposite end of the tables, directing the drama, while the guests in the middle are oblivious of what is going on.
- This painting by David (click red text) is a very formal presentation.
- In contrast in this painting by Bassano (click red text) the guests look they have enjoyed themselves very much.
- As they also do with this larger group by Veronese (click red text) do these people look cranky because the wine has run out? The bride and groom seem to be ignoring the problem hoping it would go away.
- This painting by Australian artist Louis Kahan (click red text) shows a homely happy feast.
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
As you go through this week, mull on the ritual practices that you do to support your faith. Have they become too routine, too ordinary like water? Mull on how you can review with the grace of the Spirit have them enrich your life, like wine.
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
Gently consider the different aspects of your life and focus on those where you feel dissatisfied, where you lack a sense of peace or of joy. Choose one and sit with it for a while. Imagine it being like water, unable to give joy or to sustain your spirit. In faith, bring it to Jesus and express your fear, doubts and pain. Once you have poured out your heart, rest awhile and wait to hear his response. Then do whatever he tells you.
Rest in the love of your God.
Suggestions for the Programme
The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.
Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Invitation for share reflections
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
- God is Love by L Deiss
- Seek Ye First by Karen Lafferty
- _ Here I Am Lord_ by Dan Schutte