Clearly, the connecting thread between the first reading and the gospel is marriage, or perhaps celebrating marriage.
We are at the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (the first having been last Sunday’s Feat of the Baptism of the Lord), and instead of a reading from Luke, whose gospel will be read on the remaining Sundays in Ordinary Time, today we have a reading from John — as it happens the story of the wedding feast at Cana, which gives us the third “mystery” of the Epiphany, the changing of water into wine for the wedding guests.
We begin with Isaiah 62:1-5 — a passage about the restoration of Jerusalem. After words about a glory that is manifested to the nations — the theme of Epiphany — the prophets turns to images of marriage to describe God’s relationship with his restored people. It is not just that God cares for his people and sustains them, but he delights in them, marries them, rejoices in them as a bridgroom in his bride. This powerful imagery tells us how intense God’s love is for us. Indirectly, it shows us an ideal for marriage and underscores its value.
The responsorial psalm — Ps 96:1-3, 7-10 — returns us to singing God’s praises among the nations and calling them all to join his people, implicitly in light of his espousal of his people.
The second reading — 1 Cor 12:4-11 — begins a series from First Corinthians 12 and 15 which continues in the lectionary through the 8th Sunday. But Lent begins after the fifth Sunday, and the 6th through the 8th are superseded by the solemnities which follow Eastertide. At any rate, Paul is writing to the church at Corinth in these chapters about right order in the community. Here he reminds them and us that whatever gifts we have come from the Holy Spirit, as do other people’s gifts, and they are all given for the benefit of all. Therefore, we shouldn’t regard ourselves as special or privileged because of our gifts.
The gospel — John 2:1-11 — is full of elements worth considering. There is the matter of the relationship between Mary and Jesus in this context. Mary acts as intercessor for the couple. Jesus accedes to her request. Then there is the matter of Jesus’ “hour,” when he will fulfill his purpose by going to the triumph of the cross. And, clearly, there is the context of the wedding feast. When I was in school, ou catechism said that “a sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.” Of course, marriage existed before the time of Jesus. It existed before the covenant at Mount Sinai. Genesis indicates that it has existed throughout the existence of the human race. But our definition tells us that Jesus instituted the sacrament of matrimony, raising the human institution to that level. We were told that it was at Cana that Jesus made marriage a sacrament for his followers. I’d be inclined to suggest that when he speaks of marriage as an act of God joining man and woman together (Matthew 19:6 and parallels), it is at least as clear a teaching that marriage is a action of God. Still. this passage does show Jesus’ esteem for marriage, not only in that he attended the wedding, but that he insured that the celebration would go well.
But John refers to what Jesus did as a “sign.” It has a meaning beyond the actual event. This meaning was sufficiently evident to the disciples that they “began to believe in him.” An important part of that obvious significance was probably the matter of “Messianic abundance:” the expectation that in the Messianic age, there would be more than enough of everything. So, as with the later feeding of the crowds, the change from insufficiency to abundance is an sign that the Messianic age has begun with the coming of Jesus. Beyond that, there is a sign that would only later become clear. Jesus transforms water into wine, just as, at the Last Supper, he would transform wine into his blood. The Eucharist, the Mass, is the wedding feast of the Lamb of God, Jesus, with his bride, the Church, and we are all participants in the celebration, made joyful with the wine transformed into his saving blood.