Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
During my years as a priest I have participated in many weddings. I know it takes a lot of effort to prepare for the great wedding reception or banquet, as well as the ceremony, not to mention the married life itself. In many weddings it is the reception or banquet that requires the greatest effort and expense. And I am sure every effort is made so that no bride or groom finds themselves in the situation of the couple at the wedding feast in Cana described in the Gospel.
The Gospel account of the wedding feast at Cana has a number of layers of meaning. There is a certain complement of marriage itself in the fact that Jesus’ first great sign in John’s accounting occurs at a wedding feast. Jesus is helping a newly married couple have a more joyous celebration. There is the interesting dialogue between Jesus and Mary. She intercedes. Jesus responds as if her request is not to be fulfilled, yet she, in confidence expects something. She tells the waiters to do whatever He says. It is the message that anyone with a devotion to Mary should hear as they seek her intercession.
The meaning that the Church would like us to notice is in reference to the relationship between God and His people. That is why the passage used as our first reading was specifically paired with the Gospel. The passage from the book of Isaiah directs the prophet to cheer up God’s people as they were returning from exile to a destroyed Jerusalem and temple. God wanted His people to know that He was restoring His relationship with them, and as in other Old Testament passages nuptial or marriage imagery is used to describe that relationship. God is as the groom and His people, collectively, the bride. God approaches His people with commitment and fidelity. He seeks union and intimacy with His people. As Christian we see the promise of restored relationship fulfilled in Jesus Christ, God coming into the world, to save those who have separated themselves from God through sin.
The wedding feast at Cana then is the first alert that a greater wedding feast, a greater celebration of marital union is coming. It is the union between the bridegroom Jesus and the bride which is His Church. The restored relationship is accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The perfection of the restored relationship is, however, to be found in heaven. And fittingly the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, describes heaven in terms of a great wedding celebration. It is the wedding feast of the Lamb. It is the wedding feast of the groom, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, with all those whom He has saved. It is the celebration of the perfect and eternal union of God with each and all of those who believe in Him and have accepted His gift of salvation.
The Second Vatican council document on the liturgy describes the Mass as the foretaste of the heavenly liturgy, described as the heavenly wedding feast. Every Mass celebrates what has been accomplished in establishing a new union between God and His people. It always anticipates the time when that union will be perfect and eternal in heaven. And in fact, more than anticipation there is a co-incidence of the earthly liturgy here at Mass and the eternal heavenly liturgy. Every Mass provides the strength to moving to that perfection through the special presence of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Word and in sacrament.
At Mass however we are not simply guests, we are not passive bystanders at someone else’s wedding, someone else’s celebration of unity and love and commitment. We are the ones celebrating our own union with and love of God through a relationship in which the commitment should be mutual. We are like the bride (or groom) at any wedding concerned that the celebration be the best one possible. Everyone should be coming to Mass prepared to work. Each one of us shares in the responsibility to make the experience of the Mass as fruitful as possible for everyone else who joins us.
I have addressed this in other homilies. I have written about this in bulletin articles. I have created tools to assist this effort, most especially the Mass personal preparation card. I address the work of liturgy again in this week’s bulletin. It addresses some specific work or roles in the liturgy over and above the common and universal task of being the best worshipers possible.
This week’s letter notes the need for more liturgical ministers. I want to notch up our participation in special liturgical ministries by increasing the numbers and refining the sense of commitment and responsibility. My starting point was noting that recently the use of cups with the Precious Blood was dropped because there simply weren’t enough minsters identified. Some months ago I noted the inappropriateness of scrambling for drop in ministers to fulfill the awesome task of the distribution of the Body and Blood of Christ. Often the posted schedule has replaced names with open. (I have found “open” to not be a very committed minister. When I addressed this in a previous bulletin article I noted how no bride waits to see who will show up in order to fill the very special positions such as brides maid.) Other times the assigned minister doesn’t show up. So, as I note in the bulletin, I am reviewing so that we can refine as necessary the process of scheduling and communicating. Nevertheless we do need additional ministers to continue to enrich our liturgical celebrations.
The insert form calls for volunteers to serve as Communion ministers, readers, altar servers and ushers (who are also greeters). I ask that everyone prayerfully consider whether they can serve in one of these special ministries even as we all continue to refine every aspect of how we participate in the liturgy: praying, singing, listening, supporting and loving.