| Is 62:1-5
|| Ps 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10
|| 1 Cor 12:4-11
RCL: 1 Cor 12:1-11
| Jn 2:1-11
Change: covenant, renewal, signs
During Ordinary time the Lectionary readings present stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week’s readings invite the believing community to consider the meaning of Jesus’ first sign at Cana.
The first reading is from the prophet Isaiah, who addresses the people of Jerusalem. The exiles have just returned, but they have not yet rebuilt Jerusalem, destroyed by the Babylonian army seventy years before. Isaiah still believes God will completely restore the people and the covenant; he describes God’s restoration using the images of a marriage and wedding feast. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because it foreshadows the messianic age that Jesus inaugurates at the wedding in Cana.
The second reading is the start of a continuous reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian ekklesia. Corinth was a multiethnic, multiracial, multicultural city at an important land and sea crossroads. Paul’s growing believing community included local Jews, Christian exiles from Rome, former Egyptian cult followers, and Greek philosophy students. No wonder Paul spends so much of his letter correcting Corinthians’ ideas and practices. In today’s reading, some Corinthians who have special gifts (such as speaking in tongues), believe they are better than the rest. Paul explains that all gifts are from God alone and all gifts are important to building up the ekklesia.
John’s gospel describes Jesus’ first public sign: changing water into wine at a family wedding in Cana. This reading echoes God’s promises fulfilled in Jesus:
- A wedding feast. Throughout Hebrew scripture, prophets and writers use marriage as a metaphor for the covenant between God and the people (see the first reading). The prophets point to God acting to redeem the people and to renew the covenant. The coming of the messiah would be a sign of God’s fulfillment of this promise. By setting his story at a wedding feast, John suggests that Jesus’ presence will have something to do with covenant and restoration.
- Water into abundant wine. Throughout Hebrew scripture, prophets and writers use abundance, especially an abundance of wine, as a metaphor for the messianic age. Under the renewed covenant, God will not only meet, but exceed the people’s needs so no one will want for anything. The prophets describe this as an age of prosperity, exemplified by a superabundance of good wine. At Cana, these prophecies come together: Jesus is present at a marriage feast, where he provides a superabundance of good wine (180 gallons).
- Jesus’ first sign. John uses the word “sign,” rather than the synoptics’ word “wonder” or “miracle,” to describe Jesus’ act. For John, Jesus’ signs reveal spiritual truths though human senses. John uses the Greek verb φανερόω (fah-neh-ROH-oh), meaning “to reveal” or “to make visible” or “to enlighten,” when he wants to show that Jesus reveals God or makes God visible to humans. John’s language in today’s reading recalls the revelation of YHWH’s glory on the third day at Sinai (Ex 19:16). Jesus reveals his glory on the third day at Cana (Jn 2:1). Jesus’ sign of water-into-wine fulfills God’s promises to the people at Sinai (Ex 24:16-17).
Today’s readings ask us to think about the meaning of covenant, restoration, and Jesus’ signs. We sometimes think that covenant and restoration are God’s mighty acts in the past, in the time of prophets and Babylonian exiles. Covenants (relationships) and restorations (metanoia and forgiveness) belong to all times, including our own. Jesus’ sign of change (water-into-wine) isn’t only about helping a bridal couple. Jesus’ sign reveals that God remains present and engaged in our human world, continuing to offer every person a new covenant and restoration as often as needed. Can we see the signs of God’s presence? Are we ready to engage in a sacramental relationship with God? Are we ready to change?
| 1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19
|| Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
|| 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20
|| Jn 1:35-42
Discipleship: called by name into an abiding relationship
This week the liturgical calendar changes to Ordinary time, and the Lectionary readings invite us to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. Today’s readings ask the believing community and RCIA participants to examine their call to discipleship and its implications.
In the first reading, the book of Samuel describes Samuel’s call by God to be a prophet. Samuel is living in the tabernacle in Shiloh with Eli the priest. God calls Samuel by name into a special relationship and mission. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to parallel Jesus’ call of his disciples in the gospel.
In the second reading from his first letter to the ekklesia at Corinth, Paul writes to correct the Corinthians misunderstandings. In this passage he addresses the ethical problem of sexual immorality associated with temple prostitution. Through three metaphors, Paul asks three questions:
- Your bodies are members of Christ. The idea of Greek citizens as parts of a civic body is a favorite figure in Greek life and philosophy. Paul applies this image to the ekklesia members who are parts of Christ’s body. Paul asks: why would Christians defile Christ and themselves through unions with unbelievers?
- Your body is a temple. Paul imagines the ekklesia as a temple, where each member is a living stone in the temple’s construction. God’s Spirit resides in this temple, just as God’s presence resided in the Jerusalem Temple. Paul asks: why would Christians seek God in pagan temples and rites?
- You have been bought by Christ. Paul believes all people are slaves to sin. Through Christ’s redeeming action and Christian baptism, Christ buys Christians out of slavery, as the Greeks buy slaves in the market. Paul asks: why would Christians want to enslave themselves again to pagan gods?
In the gospel, the Baptizer has just completed his testimony about Jesus. John now tells the story of Jesus’ disciples, describing two ways to encounter Jesus, and Jesus’ response:
- Those who seek. Andrew and his unnamed companion (the beloved disciple) begin following Jesus after the Baptizer points him out. Jesus asks them “What are looking for?” The Greek verb ζητέω (dzay-TEH-oh) means “to seek” or “to search after.” Jesus is asking them, “If you want to be my disciple, what do you seek from me?”
- Those who are brought by others. Simon receives his call to follow Jesus though his brother Andrew. Jesus looks at Simon and calls him by a new name. Simon’s renaming to Peter, like Abram’s renaming to Abraham (Gn 17:5), and Jacob’s renaming to Israel (Gn 32:29), indicates Peter will have a special role in God’s plan.
- Jesus’ invitation: come and abide. Whether a disciple seeks out Jesus or comes to Jesus through another, Jesus invites the disciple to experience life with Jesus. John uses the Greek verb μένω (MEHN-oh) to describe life with Jesus. μένω means literally “to stay with” and metaphorically “to remain-in-relationship” or “to abide.” John uses μένω to indicate that the disciples not only stay with Jesus, but began to experience an abiding relationship.
Today’s readings prod RCIA candidates and the believing community to examine Jesus’ invitation to discipleship. Like Samuel in the first reading and the disciples in the gospel, God calls each of us by name to fulfill a task only we can complete. But first we must answer Jesus’ question: what do you seek? The question isn’t a test; it’s a call to self-examination. Choosing to walk the same road with Jesus requires not just sacrifice, but self-sacrifice. In Baptism and Confirmation God calls us by a new name. Whose voice do we hear? What or whom do we seek? Are we ready to complete the unique task for which we’ve been called-by-name?
|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?