(Ordinary Time – Cycle C)
1 Corinthians 12,4-11
The loving relationship among spouses makes up one of the richest biblical symbols to speak of the existing love between God and man and woman. From the prophet Hosea, that in his own matrimonial drama intuited in a personal way the faithful and merciful love of God (Hos 1-3), until the last pages of Revelation, where the Church is adorned as a spouse longing for the return of her Spouse Christ (Rev 21,2; 22,7), human love, beauty, the joy of a matrimonial relationship, make up a fundamental paradigm to understand the mystery of God that is love (1 Jn 4,8.16) and the vocation of humanity and of every man and woman, called to communion and dialogue with God.
The first reading (Is 62,1-5) is a poem dedicated to Jerusalem, the holy city that represents symbolically all people. The city is presented as an engaged woman that is at the point of entering into marriage (v. 5). A sentinel cries impatiently at dawn: “About Zion I will not be silent, about Jerusalem I will not grow weary, until her integrity shines out like the dawn and her salvation flames like a torch.” (v. 1). The song awakes the city. This is the day of her nuptials. When finally the sun rises, its rays illuminate the walls and all Jerusalem shines forth like “a crown of splendor,” “a princely diadem” (v. 3). The city is compared then to the crown that the spouse places on the head of the woman. The spouse is Yahweh, who offers his beloved as espousal gifts for the wedding day, “justice” and “salvation” (v. 2). His love for the city is faithful and eternal: “Yahweh will take delight in you and your country will have its wedding” (v. 4b). The years of exile have stayed behind, in which the people have lived in exile and have cried over the desolation of her land, misery, the lack of meaning, and death: “No more will you be known as ‘Forsaken’ or your country be known as ‘Desolation’” (v. 4a). This does not treat of a simple reunion among the people, represented symbolically by the city-spouse and God. It is an authentic engagement. A new beginning founded on love and reciprocal fidelity: “Like a young man marrying a virgin, your rebuilder will wed you (Hebrew participle: bonéh; that is better translated in the present: “constructs you,” than in the past: “constructed you”); and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you” (v. 5). The new historical stage of the people and the new religious experience in which the city is founded serve for concretizing the transformation of the city. It is the “new name which Yahweh’s mouth will reveal” of which the poem speaks (v. 2). A new beginning that only God can bring about. As wise “builder” places the bases not only of a new material structure of the city, but rather of a new society. “In saving justice you will be made firm, free from oppression; you will have nothing to fear; free from terror; it will not approach you” (Is 54,14). The text terminates evoking a passionate honeymoon, founded on the happiness of God given over into love for his people.
The second reading (1 Cor 12,4-11) alludes to the exuberate richness of the charisms present in the Christian community. Paul remembers that the charisms, notwithstanding their diversity, have one origin alone: “always the same Spirit,” “the same Lord,” “it is the same God who is at work in all” (vv. 4-6); secondly, underlines the variety and plurality of the manifestation of the charisms: “there are different gifts,” “there are different ways of serving,” “there are different forms of activity” (vv. 4-6); and finally concludes affirming that all charisms have one end alone: “The particular manifestation of the Spirit granted to each one is to be used for the general good” (v. 7). A beautiful synthesis of the Pauline theology of charisms: unity in origin, plurality in manifestation, and unity in finality. Therefore, there is no room for integral exclusivity of some groups, nor destructing authoritarianism, thus both negate the liberty of the Spirit, now that the diversity is condition of his action; nor is there any room for charismatic anarchy and disorder, thus the root of all gifts is the only Lord that manifests himself in the Church for the good of all. In verses 8-11 Paul offers a type of “catalog” of charisms, though obviously, he does not want to say that this are the only ones or the most important ones. It is the permanent task of the Church and of every Christian community “update” this catalog, discovering the new manifestations of the Spirit in each historical situation and according to the life and the mission of each community. And this is only possible with prayer and discernment, openness to the Spirit and attentive reading of historical events.
The gospel (Jn 2,1-12) is the known account of the marriage at Cana, constructed like the first reading around matrimonial symbolism. It is better to begin the commentary in the 11th verse which concludes the narration: “This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.” The transformation of water into wine is, therefore, a “sign” (in Greek: semeion), a symbol of a mysterious reality. It is not a simple miracle. It is necessary to make a hermeneutical effort to capture the meaning of that which is realized by Jesus.
In the 3rd verse, the lack of wine is insisted upon: “When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘The have no wine.” It is illuminating to remember that which wine signifies in the biblical tradition. In the Old Testament wine frequently represented the goods of the new covenant, it was one of the essential elements of the messianic banquet (Am 9,14; Joel 4,18; Is 25,6; Prov 9,2.5). In later Judaism, wine had come to be one of the preferred symbols to designate the law, especially the new lay that would have to point out the day of the Messiah. The intervention of the mother of Jesus (that the text never calls by her own name, Mary), prepares the vertex of the action. The response of Jesus to his mother, that ordinarily is translated so: “Woman, what do you want from me?” (v. 4a), is an biblical expression that indicates a misunderstanding, an incomprehension between two persons (Joshua 11,2; 2 Sam 16;10; 1 K 17,18). The mother of Jesus spoke naturally of the lack of wine at the reception in Cana; Jesus, on the other hand, places himself on another level, alluding to his messianic mission. The thinks of the “wine” in the symbolic meaning of the prophets, in the messianic goods that accompany his person and that are about to manifest themselves in Israel. The phrase of Jesus, “My hour has not come yet” (v. 4b) evokes an important idea in the gospel of John. The definitive “hour of Jesus I s the moment of the cross, where he will manifest fully his glory (Jn 12,28) and give over his spirit (Jn 19,30), opening to humanity the totality of the abundant goods of the cross, where also his Mother will be (Jn 19,25-27), the “woman,” as Jesus calls here on two occasions (Jn 2,4; 19,26), now represents the people of the new covenant, entire humanity. Her feminine presence evokes the “daughter of Zion,” the Jerusalem-messianic spouse, the people of the faithful God of the last times (first reading).
The abundant wine of Cana (“There were six stone water jars standing there…each could hold twenty or thirty gallons!”) represents therefore, “the truth” brought by Jesus, in opposition to the sterile ritualism and useless legalism in which the old covenant had fallen (Jn 1,17). The “truth” of Jesus, on the other hand, is light and life (Jn 1,4). It is a truth that liberates and transforms (Jn 8,12), is source of joy and of fullness (Jn 16,22-24). The wine, therefore, is symbol of Christ himself. His origin is, in effect, mysterious (v. 9: “the steward tasted the water, having no idea where it came from”), exactly as will be said afterwards of Christ in Jn 7,25-30 (Jn 7,28 “he who sent me, you do not know him”); as also will be said of the Spirit, that “you do not know where he comes from or where he goes” (Jn 3,8). But also his coming is exceptional: “People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now” (v. 10). Jesus is the “ultimate wine” in which the old covenant hopes for, but it is the perfect present, the “new wine” par excellence, sign of the full blessing of God.
In Cana the power of a superior being is not so much revealed, but much more the love of a Messiah that brings messianic joy to humanity. The gospel is a liberating word and source of life for man and woman. The wine of Jesus, mysterious and transforming, does not know limits. It is offered to each man and woman on the journey of life as source of joy and fullness. The future of humanity is not in the messianic repetition of sterile religious rites, nor in the infantile acceptance of cold dogmas, nor in blind obedience to exterior norms and laws (“the six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews”). The future of man and woman and their true joy (“the wine of Jesus”) is in the unconditional adherence of the heart and of life to the living God that has revealed himself in Christ, spouse of all humanity.