Reflection on the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: 20th Jan 2019

Jesus’ First Sign

The literal interpretation of Scripture is the least helpful. The symbolic level is the level filled with meaning that changes our lives. John’s writing is full of symbolic language. We would miss much if we were to see here only a ‘miracle’ by which Jesus helps a young bridegroom who finds himself in an embarrassing position on his wedding day. We don’t know if the events in today’s Gospel really happened in this way, but there are a lot of give-aways that there is a deeper message here.

One of these is the focus on the six stone jars that were used for purification rites, for ceremonial washing. Much of the history of religion is about ceremonial washing where the emphasis is on purification because we are not perfect enough. The jars in today’s Gospel are empty. Jesus filled the jars to the brim with wine. This is not just a miracle story. It is a transformational story about what Jesus is bringing about in the history of religion. We thought that religion was about a list of requirements which we have to fulfil so that God will love us.

As in so many Scripture passages, matrimonial imagery is used in today’s Gospel to tell us that what God wants with humanity is a love affair, a marriage. We find it difficult to accept that God would want such an intimate relationship with us, so we keep going back to the six empty jars of purifying water, to fulfilling the law. But laws don’t teach us how to love. In today’s Gospel, Jesus changes the focus of religion from a religion of legalism to a religion of love, filled to the brim with joy and celebration. And this is his ‘first sign’.

Richard Rohr and Living Space website. Adapted