A reflection on the readings for Sunday, January 16, 2022 — The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today we heard from the Gospel of John. It is important for us to know that, unlike Matthew and Luke, John does not have an infancy narrative or provide the genealogy of Jesus. Instead, John begins his Gospel with the real origin of Jesus – “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God.” John describes Christmas with simple words, “The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.” Since John does not have an infancy narrative, he does not have the traditional story of the Epiphany with the three Magi. Today’s Gospel reading—the miracle of turning water into wine—is John’s Epiphany story. This is why this Gospel account ends with the words, “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.”
What should we make of John’s story? The best way to enter into this passage is to focus on the characters in the story. First, there is the mother of Jesus, then there are the servants, and then there are the disciples.
It was the mother of Jesus who initiated this miracle. Yet she is rebuked by Jesus. No matter how hard we try to soften this rebuke and explain it away, we can’t deny that it is truly a rebuke. Mary’s reaction in the face of the rebuke is the real message of the story. With unconditional trust in her son, she tells the servant to do whatever he asks them to do. In this way, Mary becomes the first person in the Gospel of John to showcase the correct response in God’s presence. (Allow me to mention that this is also the case in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In Luke especially, Mary says, “May it be done to me according to your word.”) In John’s Gospel Mary is saying something similar. By telling the servants “Do whatever he tells you to do,” Mary is saying that the correct response to the presence of Jesus is trust in his word.
Just as the mother of Jesus told the servers, they responded with wordless obedience. The mother’s command is perfectly executed. And then, Jesus tells them to fill the jars with water, and the servers fill them up to the brim. Even though the actual transformation of the water of the wine is not described, Jesus asks the servers to draw from the jars and take it the steward of the wedding feast. The servers again do ‘whatever’ Jesus tells them. Jesus’s command is followed to perfection. Neither the headwaiter nor the bridegroom has a clue where this excellent wine came from, but the servers do. The miracle is the result of the servants following to perfection the words of Mary and then the words of Jesus.
Notice that the disciples do not play a part in the miracle. They are observers. Yet, their role is crucial. The words with which this miracle ends tell us the real purpose of the story: “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.” The miracle certainly helped the bridegroom and the bride avoid embarrassment. They are only external to the story, however. The miracle should have taught the disciples something. What should they have learned? They should have learned to have confidence in Jesus like his mother did. They should have learned to have unconditional trust in him like his mother did. They should have learned that the correct response in the presence of Jesus is to do whatever he tells you to do. They should have learned that wordless obedience to Jesus will be crucial to their discipleship. They should have learned that Jesus’ command is to be followed to perfection and if they do so, a hopeless world can be redeemed—just as that wedding was saved from embarrassment. They will also soon learn that in order to believe in Jesus they will have to know who Jesus is.
At every Eucharist it is not just water that is turned to wine, but bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. As we receive Christ, may we trust Jesus like his mother did. Let us be obedient like the servers were. Let us be disciples knowing and following Christ, Amen.
Image: Adobe Stock. By wjarek.
Fr. Satish Joseph was ordained in India in 1994 and incardinated into the archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2008. He has a Masters in Communication and Doctorate in Theology from the University of Dayton. He is presently Pastor at Immaculate Conception and St. Helen parishes in Dayton, OH. He is also the founder Ite Missa Est ministries (www.itemissaest.org) and uses social media extensively for evangelization. He is also the founder of MercyPets (www.mercypets.org) — a charitable fund that invites pet-owners to donate a percent of their pet expenses to alleviate child hunger. MercyPets is active in four countries since its founding in December 2017. Apart from serving at the two parishes, he facilitates retreats, seminars and parish missions.