17th January 2016
The background situation to the first reading is really the same as that for last week’s, and the message is again an encouraging one. But there is a distinctive and interesting element. As happens today for a newborn baby in many cultures, the selection of the name is done thoughtfully in order to express something of the parents’ hopes for the child. But sometimes in later life a different name comes to a person and for different reasons. At school a child may get a regularly used nickname to describe something of the character, hopefully but sadly not always, a positive notion welcomed by the recipient. Sometimes even an adult may change name to express something of which they are proud – such as an actor or other public figure. You may well know that in the gospels we are told that Jesus changed the name of Simon to Peter, a word that meant rock, because he was to be a foundation stone of the early church; and in the Old testament, Abram’s name is changed to Abraham when he is chosen by God. In our reading female names play an important role; they are applied to the people and the land; the name will be changed from a bad one to a very special one (from Azubah meaning forsaken, to Hephzibah meaning my delight, and the land from Desolate to Espoused). The passage goes on to suggest that God will marry the renewed and delightful bride, this is a remarkable image of the relationship of God to us – worth singing a new song about (Psalm 96).
In the passage from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (12: 4-11), he writes about the many and wonderful spiritual gifts that the people in the church there have. I think there may have been some ill-feeling; some claiming or clearly thinking that their particular talent was superior to that of others. But at the start and at the end of the passage read today, Paul emphasizes the unity that there should be because all the gifts are from the same Spirit, the one God – so there should be no disharmony among them. Paul lists nine gifts here, but the Catholic Church has in the past taught that we Christians have seven special spiritual gifts.
The Gospel may well have been chosen because after the celebrations of the birth and baptism of Jesus, he begins his public ministry, and this miracle at Cana is presented in John’s gospel as the first of his signs. But most of the content of John’s gospel carries within it a deeper meaning. It is because of this that many anomalies appear if it is read at surface level; for example in this account it says at the end that Jesus revealed his glory and yet as far as the story tells us, only the servers knew that what was being drunk had moments before been water. The early Christian recipients of the gospel might see in the ceremonial water jars and in the wine a reference to the replacement of Jewish religious rituals with the Christian Eucharistic celebration. A marriage relationship was used to explain the love of God for his chosen ones. There is more to it than just this however, and you might examine some further depths of meaning here or elsewhere on the world wide web.