|Is 49:3, 5-6
||Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
||1 Cor 1:1-3
Seeing and not seeing
During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week’s readings tell us to look, to see, and to perceive who Jesus is.
The first reading from Isaiah presents the second (of four) Servant Songs. Jewish readers see the Servant as the prophet Isaiah, or a messianic figure descended from David, or the personification of Israel. Christian readers see the Servant as Christ who reconciles all humans to God. The Lectionary editors matched this Servant Song to the Baptizer’s insight that Jesus is the “Lamb of God.”
The second reading begins Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul writes to clear up misunderstandings in the Corinth ekklesia (believing community). The Corinthians are too focused on themselves, and are disconnected from the larger ekklesia. In today’s reading, Paul introduces the letter’s themes. He prays for “peace” because the Corinthians lack peace. He prays for “grace” because the Corinthians misunderstand the charisms (graces, gifts) they have. Paul will spend the rest of his letter correcting these errors.
In the gospel, John the evangelist plays with words and meanings. The Greek word εἴδω (EYE-doh) can mean “to see with eyes” or “to know” and “to perceive.” The Baptizer admits that he didn’t see/know Jesus. But at Jesus’ baptism, the Baptizer has an insight from God, and suddenly he sees, recognizes, and knows exactly who Jesus is and gives his testimony about Jesus’ identity and Jesus’ role in salvation:
- The Lamb of God. The Baptizer calls Jesus the “lamb of God.” John may be thinking of the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel (Ex 12); or the Temple lambs, sacrificed to purge people’s sins; or the suffering servant, offered like a lamb as a sin-offering (Is 53:7, 10). In Aramaic (the language the Baptist and Jesus spoke), the word talya can mean “lamb,” “child/son,” and “slave/servant.” The Aramaic word ties Jesus’ title back to the first reading’s Servant Song. In this phrase, the Baptizer sees Jesus’ identity: suffering servant, lamb of sacrifice, Son of God.
- The one who takes away the world’s sin. John recognizes Jesus as more than a paschal lamb or Temple sacrificial lamb. Jesus is the Lamb/Servant/Son of God who alone can completely reconcile God and humans. The Baptizer sees the Spirit descend on and remain with Jesus. Jesus pours out this same Spirit on everyone he encounters. In this phrase, the Baptizer sees Jesus’ role: to restore all humans everywhere to God.
Today’s readings challenge RCIA participants and the believing community to see who Jesus really is: God-made-flesh who remains with us reconciling us with God. Like the Corinthians, we sometimes “get in our own heads” and can’t see the larger picture. Or like the Baptizer, we see someone without really perceiving that person. Today’s readings remind us that we need regular spiritual eye exams. Do we really see and know Jesus? Do we see and know ourselves and our role in reconciliation?
||Ps 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10
||1 Cor 12:4-11
Weddings, gifts, and wine
During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. Over the next three Sundays, we will follow Jesus as he begins his ministry and calls his disciples. The readings challenge RCIA participants to change and to discipleship. This week’s readings connect Isaiah’s new covenant with Jesus’ first sign at Cana.
The first reading is from the prophet Isaiah (actually, the third Isaiah, who lived during the Jerusalem restoration after the exile). Isaiah tells the Hebrews that God will create a new relationship or covenant with the chosen people, a covenant as intimate as a marriage. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to match today’s gospel, which fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy.
The second reading is from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul writes to the Corinth ekklesia because the membership is divided. Some members believe they are better than others because they have received special gifts, especially glossolalia–the ability to “speak in tongues.” Paul tells the Corinthians that all gifts are from God and that a member does not receive a gift solely for his or her own benefit. God gives each member a gift for a specific reason or to fulfill a need within the ekklesia.
The gospel is John’s wedding feast at Cana. In this short story of Jesus’ first sign, John sums up Jesus’ identity, his fulfillment of scripture, and his mission:
- Wedding and wedding feast: John sets Jesus first sign at a Galilean marriage. Throughout Hebrew scripture, prophets and writers use marriage metaphors to describe the covenant between God and the chosen people. John’s setting suggests that God’s saving act–God’s covenant with the Hebrews–is being extended and transformed by God incarnate (Jesus).
- Water into wine: On a human level, we empathize with the groom and bride who run out of drinks, but John’s dialogue suggests a larger meaning. Through the prophets, God promised a definitive act of salvation to redeem the people and to renew the covenant–the messiah would be such a sign. The prophets compare the renewed covenant with a marriage between God and God’s people. Under this new covenant, God will not simply provide for God’s people–God will exceed the people’s needs so that no one will want for anything. The prophets describe this time as an age of prosperity, exemplified by a superabundance of good wine. At Cana, these prophecies come together: the messiah (Jesus) is present with new people of God (his mother and his disciples) at a marriage feast (covenant), and the messiah works a sign (transforming water to wine) of messianic superabundance (180 gallons of wine).
- Believe in him: In John’s gospel, Jesus performs signs to bring people to faith. The disciples begin to believe in Jesus–they believe in him personally, not in some abstract assent to doctrine.
The readings remind RCIA participants and the entire believing community that God comes to us in the ordinary and the everyday to make us new. God’s kingdom is filled to overflowing with good things. The messiah–God-with-us–is already here. God has given each of us gifts to build up God’s kingdom. Do we recognize God’s presence and use God’s gifts for others, or do we think only about running out of our own wine?