2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time C
January 17, 2016
Reading I: Isaiah 62:1-5
This excerpt comes from a section of Third Isaiah that consists
of songs celebrating the return from exile. The subject of
the present song is the restored city of Jerusalem. God is now rejoicing
over the city as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.
While this reading comes from a section appropriate for any festival season,
it is clearly intended to match the gospel (the wedding at Cana), for it uses
nuptial imagery to depict the relationship between YHWH and
tradition since Hosea.
The speaker in verse 1 is the prophet. His style and vocabulary
suggest that he was a pupil of Second Isaiah. His master had prophesied the return
from exile. That return had doubtless now taken place, but Jerusalem has not
yet been rebuilt (see Haggai and Nehemiah).
The prophet, however, is undaunted
and is still convinced that his master’s predictions will be completely fulfilled.
So he refuses to keep silent or to rest (in intercession for Jerusalem) until
God vindicates the city.
The writer then expresses the restoration of Jerusalem in three pictures:
It will be a crown and a diadem in the hand of YHWH.
It has been suggested that this image derives from the ancient Near Eastern
of depicting the god
of a city wearing a crown patterned after the city walls.
(2) The city will
be given a new name:
“My delight is in her” = Hephziba, a girl’s
name in Hebrew.
(3) The nuptial imagery already noted.
Note the bold mixture
of images: your sons will marry you (!); then YHWH will
rejoice over Jerusalem as a bride. We should not press this
imagery too closely. The
idea is clear enough.
Responsorial Psalm: 96:1-3, 7-8, 9-10
The first two stanzas
of this psalm are used each year at the midnight Mass of
Christmas, and practically the same selection of verses is
used in a slightly different arrangement on the twenty-ninth
Sunday of the year in series A.
As well as being a psalm
generally suitable for festivals, it has a strong missionary
note, brought out here by the refrain: “Proclaim his
marvelous deeds to all the nations.”
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
This reading overlaps with
the second reading on Pentecost Sunday. The selection for that day comprised
three sections: (1) confession of Jesus as Lord; (2) the varieties of gifts [abbreviated];
(3) diversity and unity within the body.
Today the first section is dropped;
the second is given in full, specifying the varieties of gifts; and the third
will form the beginning of next Sunday’s second reading.
Note first the artless triadic structure of 1 Corinthians 12:4-6:
service [diakoniai]the Lord [ = Christ]
workings [energemata = functions ]God
here is in part polemical, directed against the Corinthian
Gnostics, who overemphasized the importance of some of the
gifts, especially speaking in tongues.
The Apostle prefers
the term charismata to the term pneumatika (“spiritual
things”), for it emphasizes that the gifts are gifts
of grace (charis), not natural endowments to be proud
of. The word “service” (diakonia) strikes
a polemical note to be taken up later in the development
of the image of the body.
The Corinthians thought that the
gifts existed for their own glory rather than for the service
of the community. Since it is the same triune God who is
at work in all of them, no gift can be exalted above any
1 Corinthians 12:7 then sums up verses 4-6 and serves as a heading for verses 8-10: every
spiritual phenomenon is given for the common good. Verses 8-10 spell out the charismata,
listing nine in all: (1) wisdom, (2) knowledge (gnosis), (3) faith, (4) healing,
(5) miracle-working, (6) prophecy, (7) discernment of spirits, (8) tongues,
(9) interpretation of tongues.
The gifts fall into three groups: (I) wisdom and knowledge; (II) faith, healing,
and miracle-working; (III) prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, and interpretation
I. Elsewhere in
1 Corinthians there is hardly any perceptible difference
between wisdom and knowledge. Both refer to gifts that the
to possess, and criticized Paul for not having.
II. Faith here does not mean the faith by which all Christians
respond to the gospel and so are justified, but a special
gift confined to some. It is connected
III. Prophecy does not require interpretation, for it is
not unintelligible speech; but it requires the discerning
of spiritsto see whether it is
genuine or false prophecy. In verse 1 Paul has already set up the criterion:
whether the prophecy confesses Jesus as Lord or says anathema lesous.
12:11 rounds off the list by repeating the substance of verse 7 and prepares
for the ensuing section on the
churches as the body of Christ: one Spiritone body.
The view is gaining ground
that the Fourth Gospel used a source consisting mainly of miracle stories, that
is, an “aretalogy” (for the name see Sir 36:14: “wondrous deeds” in
Its purpose was to use a series of stupendous
miracles to convince potential converts that Jesus was the Messiah (see Jn
20:30, probably the conclusion
of the aretalogy). It was therefore a missionary writing.
Its basic conception
was that Jesus was the messianic prophet, recalling Moses, Elijah, and Elisha,
as these were interpreted in later Judaism, that is, as “divine men.” In
short, it was designed as a missionary tract to convert Greek-speaking Jews to
The evangelist, as distinct from the aretalogist, wrote at a later time, when
Christians had been expelled from the Jewish synagogue. His purpose was not to
convert but to force a decision upon Jewish Christians who were concealing their
faith in order to avoid expulsion from the synagogue.
So he incorporates the
earlier aretalogy into his Gospel, adding glosses to the miracle stories, expanding
them with dialogues and discourses, and combining the whole with a passion and
In this way he sets before his readers the purpose of
Christ’s coming into the worldto bring about a krisis, a decision
between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death.
Unlike most of the other signs in the Fourth Gospel, the story of the wedding
at Cana has no dialogue or discourse attached to it by the evangelist; rather,
he has contented himself with a few extra touches.
These may be identified as
follows: John 2:4 (especially “My hour has not yet come”); John 2:6b (“for the Jewish rites of purification”); John 2:11c (“and manifested
Each of these additions serves to link the Cana miracle with
the passion story: the hour, for the evangelist, is the hour of the passion;
the Jewish rites of purification are replaced by the messianic purification accomplished
on the cross (see 1 John 1:7: “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from
all sin”); the cross is the supreme moment of Jesus’ glorification.
In effect, what the evangelist is saying is that we are not to take the Cana
miracle as a direct and complete epiphany of Christ’s glory.
Though the evangelist
accepts the reality of the miracle, it has for him a further, symbolic significance,
pointing toward what Jesus is to accomplish on the cross.
There the older will
be replaced by new. This is what the changing of the water into wine symbolizes.
The real, final epiphany is the cross.
Reginald H. Fuller
Copyright © 2006
by The Order of St. Benedict, Inc., Collegeville,
Minnesota. All rights reserved. Used by
permission from The Liturgical Press,
Collegeville, Minnesota 56321
Preaching the Lectionary:
The Word of God for the Church Today
Reginald H. Fuller and Daniel Westberg. Liturgical Press. 1984 (Revised Edition), pp. 447-450.
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