Second Sunday of the Year C: January 16, 2022
Fr. John Tran
It is interesting to note that the Wedding Feast of Cana is one of the three mysteries celebrated on the Solemnity of the Epiphany along with the Wise Men and Jesus’ Baptism. So the Gospel is proclaiming a manifestation of Jesus as a Sign to others of who Jesus is, just as last Sunday our gospel referred to the Baptism of Jesus. So, in these weeks after Epiphany we are drawing out the mysteries that feast celebrates.
The first reading from Isaiah announces the theme of Wedding; Isaiah was celebrating the return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem after the Exile to Babylon. Many of the prophets used the theme of a wedding to symbolize the relationship between God and his people. So Isaiah is calling for rejoicing because God has shown his love to his bride, Israel, by bringing them home and reestablishing the worship of the Jews to God in the Temple in Jerusalem. God has shown or manifested his love to his people.
It is in the context of a wedding that John has Jesus bring about his first miracle. What an appropriate setting; God is once again showing his love for his people at a wedding. Of course, the wedding is not the main point of the miracle, but is provides the reason for it. This miracle and manifestation of Jesus’ power is a gift given in the ordinary context of human life at a wedding, a powerful symbol of God’s relationship with his people.
I read that in Irish spirituality there is a concept know as a “thin place.” This is a time, place or event in which, for a brief moment, our humanity is embraced by the mystery of the divine and we are filled with the wonder of God. It can happen at the most unlikely time or in the very ordinary events of life. A wedding feast can be one of these ‘thin places.’ A wedding is a time of abundance and celebration. From the food and wine that are served, to the music and dancing that follow, weddings overflow with goodness of life. On a deeper level, weddings speak to us about love, compassion, and unity. In this ‘thin place,’ we experience the mystery of the divine, of God’s life shared with us.
J. D. Salinger’s third book Franny and Zooey was originally a series of two stories in The New Yorker. There is a scene in the book in which Franny, a 20-year-old theology major, has just come home from college for a long weekend. She’s a nervous wreck. Her concerned mother, Bessie Glass, brings her a cup of chicken soup. Franny, unhappy, impatient, depressed, pushes the steaming cup of soup away. Franny’s brother Zooey sees this rejection and is indignant. “I’ll tell you one thing, Franny,” he says. “If it’s theology and religious life you’re studying, you ought to know that you are missing out on every single religious action that’s going on in this house. You don’t have enough sense to drink of cup of consecrated chicken soup, which is the only kind of chicken soup that Mom ever brings to anybody!”
What was Franny missing? The kitchen is the Church. The mother is the Priest. The soup is, in a sense, the Sacrament: an external sign of God’s healing grace. The pouring out of the soup is a healing. “Mom’s chicken soup” is “poured out” as a Sacrament to sooth the soul, to quash the queasiness, of a depressed daughter. That is why we read in today’s Gospel that when the first cup of wine was poured out at the Cana wedding and offered to the steward of the banquet, the wedding feast was transformed.
The wedding of Cana is a sign of God’s love and compassion. In a truly human event, God, through Jesus, reveals what is in store for us. The abundance of the wedding is a taste of what God provides for us at the Eucharistic Table. God’s compassion knows no limits. Imagine the embarrassment the bride and groom would face if the wine ran out. Just as God provided an abundance of wine for the couple, so too will God provide an abundance for us in the wine of the new covenant. This sign that God worked at Cana is a work in the ‘thin places’ of our everyday lives. But, we have to be aware and open to them in order to experience them. We are an essential part of allowing the ‘thin place’ to be perceived by ourselves and others. The trick is to let the ‘thin place’ become part of ourselves and our manifestation to others of Jesus Christ.