Jakarta, 2 March 2019
A Christian Pilgrim
THE FIRST OF HIS SIGNS
(A biblical reflection on the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time [Year C], 20 January 2019)
Gospel Reading: John 2:1-11
First Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalms: Psalm 96:1-3,7-10; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
The Scripture Text
On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with His disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. (John 2:1-11 RSV)
A wedding feast is a biblical symbol for the Kingdom of God, therefore, the Old Testament sometimes pictures God as a groom and the people of Israel as His beloved bride. John may have had this imagery in mind when he wrote about the event in today’s Gospel.
In this story, there are six stone jars of water the Jews use for ceremonial washings, each with a capacity of about twenty gallons. Some very strict Jews followed a religious law requiring them to wash their hands in a certain way before they ate. With their fingers pointing upwards, they poured water over their hands and let it drip to their wrists. Then, with fingers pointing downward, they poured water so it ran from the wrists to the tip of the fingers. They repeated this ritual before each course of the meal because they believed it was an outward sign of holiness. Hands not cleansed in this way were ritually unclean.
Because wine was both a symbol of joy and an important part of every meal in first-century Palestine, the bride and groom must have been pretty embarrassed when they ran out of it. Jesus may have been at least partially responsible for this shortage if He brought some of His uninvited apostles to the party with Him. This would explain why Mary, herself a guest, was so concerned about the shortage of wine.
The six water jars may stand for the special covenant relationship the Jewish people enjoyed with God. Since the number seven was symbolic of perfection, six jars of water meant the covenant was not perfect and had to be transformed by Jesus into an ideal relationship with God in His long-awaited Kingdom.
Although Mary – His mother – is a prominent figure in this story, the evangelist never calls her by name in his Gospel. At the wedding (and as he hangs on the cross), Jesus simply calls her “Woman”, and address that sounds disrespectful to us because there is no precise English translation for the Greek word the Gospel uses here. We may also translate this word as “madam” or “lady” but these titles are much too cold.
Finally, John never uses the word “miracles” in his Gospel but profess “signs” instead. Today’s reading ends when he says the water turned into wine was the first of the signs Jesus performed. John records only seven signs in his Gospel.
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 272-273.)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, today’s Gospel reading gives us a marvelous image of the loving relationship we have with You through Jesus. He has come to claim us as Your own, and He is generous in the gifts he brings. There is nothing mean about Jesus in the story: not a small and unimportant thing, but gallons of first class wine. Thank You, Father. We pray this in the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 18 January 2019
A Christian Pilgrim
Today’s Gospel Reading: John 3:22-30 – SATURDAY AFTER EPIPHANY: 12 January 2019
This odd scene portrays Jesus as baptizing. It is not a question of sacramental baptism as we know it. Most probably, Jesus and His disciples were continuing the bath of repentance that John had initiated.
Some of John’s disciples remark that the people seem to be flocking to Jesus to receive the ritual immersion. John’s reply restates his final message that his function was only to point the way. He compares himself to a best man at a wedding whose role is simply to ring bride and groom together.
John had done his best to prepare the people of Israel for the Messiah. He had pointed out the Lord, called for repentance. Now, the chemistry between Jesus and the Jewish people would have to take over. The same is true of ourselves. we work to link people with the Lord.
We can only do what is within our power and then let the chemistry between the Holy Spirit and individual hearts take over. Just as John the Baptist was not responsible for later Jewish rejection of Jesus, so we cannot hold ourselves responsible for those who refuse to accept the Lord.
Prayer remains the first and last resort in our efforts to bring others to the Lord.
Jakarta, 12 January 2019
A Christian Pilgrim
Today’s Gospel Reading: John 1:43-51 – CHRISTMAS SEASON: Saturday, 5 January 2019
A number of titles are given to Jesus: Rabbi, Messiah, the One described in the Law and Prophets, Son of God and King of Israel. John the Evangelist is telescoping a number of crystallized insights about the identity of Jesus into this little scene only to show them all to be partial.
Jesus tells Philip that a point will come when He will see heaven and earth meet – that is, He will come to see the deeper meaning of all these time-honored titles.
In the same way, our understanding of Christ, of discipleship and of what Christian love requires do not occur in a flash. We come to such realizations over times both good and bad. As our own lives and personalities unfold, we see more layers of meaning in time-honored doctrines and memorized words of Scripture. Events can release depths that we never quite appreciated before. We can come to realize, over time, the power and permutations of sin as well.
The events of our life do more than bring us new information from the outside. They enable us to experience the Holy Spirit we carry within with new power.
Jakarta, 5 January 2019
A Christian Pilgrim