Sunday Sermon for January 20, 2019, the Second Sunday in Ordinary time, Year C
Readings: Is 62:1-5; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Jn 2:1-11
In the readings for the past three weeks the Church has given us the three traditional events which manifested our Lord’s divinity. The word Epiphany means manifestation. These manifestations took place thirty years apart, but were celebrated together because they point to the same truth: Jesus Christ is God. The star manifested the divinity to the Magi; the Baptism manifested the divinity of Christ to St. John the Baptist; and the first miracle, the changing of water into wine at Cana manifested our Lord’s divinity to His Apostles.
As important as this is, I would like to address another aspect of today’s readings because it continues what we began in last week’s Sunday Sermon when I spoke of our Lord’s baptism and the unity of the Bride and the Bridegroom. I mentioned that Jesus established a new Covenant at His baptism. This Covenant was inaugurated at the Last Supper, and then ratified and consummated on the Cross.
We spoke about St. Paul’s teaching about marriage from the fifth chapter of his Letter to the Ephesians when he applies what should happen in a Christian marriage to Jesus and the Church and how what happens with Jesus and the Church is what should happen in Christian marriage. We said what Jesus did physically is what happened to the Church spiritually. This should not be too confusing. Just think about yourself and what happened at your baptism. Among other things, St. Paul tells us we were baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. What Jesus did physically we have entered into spiritually. However, what we share in spiritually will be brought to completion only when death and resurrection take place in our lives physically. So it is with the Church.
The Church provides us with a proper context to understand Jesus’ first miracle when He changed water into wine at Cana. In the first reading God tells Israel through the Prophet Isaiah: “For the LORD delights in you and calls your land His spouse. 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.” God entered into a marital covenant with Israel, but Israel was unfaithful to that covenant, so God determined to enter into a new Covenant, but this time it was with the New Israel, the New Jerusalem, which encompasses not only the Jewish people, but the Gentiles as well. His Bride is the Church.
Many different aspects of our Lord’s life show Him to be the Bridegroom, but because we are not ancient Jews, we do not even recognize them. One of the required events prior to entering into a marriage is that the couple, separate from one another, would go through a ritual bath. The baptism of our Lord suggests this very action. It is also interesting to note the stone jars used at the wedding feast at Cana were the jars used for purification or Jewish ceremonial washings.
It was the duty of the Bridegroom to provide the wine for the feast (a Jewish wedding feast lasted seven days). So when our Lord stepped in to provide the wine for the feast, He was not merely doing a favor for a relative (more than likely), but more than that, He revealed Himself as the Bridegroom. Of course, this also prefigured the changing of bread and wine into His own Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, which became the practical means of His expressing the Covenant with each member of the Church.
In case you are wondering about the wedding ceremony of Jesus and the Church, during the first century there was no formal wedding ritual or ceremony in which couples made vows in Jewish weddings. All the contractual elements were worked out first (today the marriage license is signed last) between the groom and the bride’s father. Once the signatures were in place the couple was considered married. However, before the papers were signed, a number of actions were necessary on the part of both the bride and the groom.
It was also common for the groom, wearing a crown and dressed as a priest, to go in procession to the bride’s home on the wedding day to bring her into his home. One can easily see the connection with what happened at the end of our Lord’s life: His wedding day was the day of His crucifixion; He wore a crown of thorns and was dressed in a seamless tunic. The events at Cana, then, not only manifested the divinity of Christ, but also manifested Christ as God Who is the Bridegroom of Israel. Now we, who are baptized into this marriage Covenant, must be manifest as the Bride of Christ and reveal His glory. This is our epiphany!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.