for Sunday, January 20, 2019
Weddings, for the most part, can be some of the most edifying, emotionally charged, and spiritually uplifting events for newly married couples and their guests. Sadly, there are weddings that fall short of these high expectations. Focusing on the former, the joy experienced by the twosome is infectious; guests cannot help but being drawn into the show, the beautiful expression of love.
From a strictly mercenary (wedding planner) point of view, the top three components of a successful wedding are 1) the bride's dress, 2) the wedding cake, and 3) the food served to the guests. Everything else is a distant fourth. However, for the newlyweds, gifts are important because oftentimes they are the bridge from the joy of the wedding to establishing marital bliss in a new household. We find hints of these practicalities in today's readings.
The Prophet Isaiah speaks about what has happened to God's Chosen People, Israel, His beloved. Israel has been more or less destroyed and its faith watered down and weakened over the centuries. Yet the Prophet Isaiah, looking into the future, states: Nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory. Like a besotted bridegroom who with great reluctance turns his glance away from his beautiful bride, God so loves His People. He is protective of them and cherishes them, promising them a glorious future with Him.
The second reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians begins to instruct us about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believing community, the life of the Church, the bride of Christ. There are so many gifts given to benefit the community. Spiritual gifts are meant to benefit the believing community. Wisdom, knowledge, healing and faith are all wonderful gifts! Which newlywed would not like to see those gifts among the mounds of exquisitely decorated boxes of appliances, china ware, and silver table service at their wedding banquet? Through the Holy Spirit, God gives the bride - the Church - and the bridegroom - Christ - the gifts needed to sustain the beautiful union.
This Second Sunday of Ordinary Time brings us the first great miracle of Jesus: the wedding feast of Cana. On the behest of his mother, Mary, Jesus gifts the wedding party with delectable wine that far exceeds the earlier offering wine. We could say that Jesus gifts his early disciples, too, giving them a keener insight as to who He is. His disciples would ultimately establish His Church with ever abundant gifts from the Holy Spirit. We can understand that the gifts that Jesus has are always for building up the community, for drawing others to God, for manifesting the great Works of God so that people may believe. This is done to fulfill the promise of the Lord that He will restore His people and vindicate them once again, embrace them lovingly like a bridegroom embraces his bride.
God never abandons His people. The Jewish Scriptures have so many stories of God being tempted to forsake His people, yet always in the end, God's merciful love triumphs and God once again seeks ways to renew His people and to draw their love to Him so that they can be saved. This draw can be found in our modern experience. Pope Francis in a recent homily put it this way for Christians seeking to renew love in their lives: "Never give up ... Never give up on people who love you. Never give up on happiness, for life is an incredible show."
May the Lord Jesus embrace our lives as we embrace Him. May our lives be transformed by the shower of gifts, most importantly listening to the Word of God, so that we are able to radiate the gifts of the Holy Spirit and build up our Christian communities in love.
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: