Friday, January 12, 2007

Points for Homily: Second Sunday in Ordinary Time C -- A New Name, A Crown, and A Wedding (Isaiah 62:1-5)

A wedding in Aguinaldo, Ifugao
Here are some points for Homily and Spiritual Reading on this coming Sunday's Readings (14 January 2007). This commentary will focus on Isaiah 62:1-5 (first reading) entitled in some commentaries as "Apostrophe to Jerusalem".

Text: Isaiah 62:1-5 (from NAB)
1For Zion's sake I will not be silent,
for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,
Until her vindication shines forth like the dawn
and her victory like a burning torch.
2 Nations shall behold your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
You shall be called by a new name
pronounced by the mouth of the LORD.
3 You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD,
4 No more shall men call you "Forsaken,"
or your land "Desolate,"
But you shall be called "My Delight,"
and your land "Espoused."
For the LORD delights in you, and makes your land his spouse.
5As a young man marries a virgin,
your Builder shall marry you;
And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride
so shall your God rejoice in you.

1. The ministry of the prophet. Note that the speaker here is a prophet whose ministry is one of being "not silent" and "not quiet". Reading further this ministry is compared to sentinels ("watchmen" or "security guards") stationed on the walls whose task is to remind Yahweh continually of his promise to liberate Jerusalem. This prophetic ministry is one of intercession and prayer in behalf of the community.
2. The background. The prophet is anonymous but preaches in the tradition of Isaiah. This section of the book, from chapters 55-66, is often called by biblical scholars as Third Isaiah written after two hundred years from the time of Isaiah. The context of our reading is the end of the Babylonian Exile (around 537 B.C.).

It was becoming certain that the exiled people of God would be allowed to return to their homeland in Judah and once again be free to worship Yahweh in Jerusalem and to begin a new life. This exciting change to a better life is symbolized in the change of the status of Jerusalem. This change is expressed in three symbols -- (1) a new name, (2) a crown, and (3) marriage.

3. A new name. From the name "Forsaken" (Hebrew "Azubah" = Abandonada) and "Desolate" (Hebrew "Shemamah"), Jerusalem is renamed "She's my Delight" (Kepsi-bah = Tagalog "O Giliw ko") and "Married" (Hebrew Beulah, Tagalog "Pinakasalan") In the Bible, change of names indicates a new status. We have another example in the book of the prophet Hosea where the prophet is told to rename his children from Lo-ruhamma-"No Mercy" to Ruhamma -"Mercy" and Lo-ammi – "Not My People" to Ammi - "My People" (Hosea 1:6,9 and 2:25). We recall also Ruth's mother-in-law who invited the people of Bethlehem to call her Mara ("Bitter") rather than Naomi ("Pleasant") because of the suffering that she experienced - she was widowed (see Ruth 1:20). Likewise, the change of name from Saul to Paul might have something to do with Paul’s conversion on the way to Damascus (Acts 13:9).

Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah
to return to the land of Moab by William Blake, 1795
photo grab wikipedia

4. A crown. In this text, there seems to be a coronation. The Lord is presented as placing a crown and a diadem on Jerusalem (v. 3). In antiquity, like in Babylon, when a city is said to have been crowned by a deity, that city is to be protected by the gods. In the same way, the crowning of Jerusalem is not only to raise her status from being a slave city to a free and honorable one but also because the Lord assures Jerusalem to be under his care.

5. The marriage. Here the prophet uses the metaphor of marriage to express the new status of Jerusalem. If Jerusalem felt abandoned during the exile, now she is being loved, in fact being courted by no other than the Lord. Here the Lord is the groom marrying his bride, Jerusalem. Such relationship between God and his people expresses more intimacy than the usual covenant relationship which is more political and diplomatic. Again we are reminded here of the love story of Hosea imitating the love story between God and Israel. As unfaithfulness led to the break-up of the marriage between Hosea and Gomer, so is Israel's infidelity. But the Lord is always a faithful lover that he seeks out Israel in spite of her infidelity (see also Isa 62:12). The use of the symbolism of marriage to express God's love to his people is probably the reason why, in our liturgy, the Gospel reading is about the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12).

6. Certainty of God’s promise. In any case, each of these symbolisms indicates the certainty of the prophetic word and the fulfillment of God’s promise to act in behalf of his people. This is also our assurance and our hope as we live in this "valley of tears". As St. Paul says in one of his letters, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God" (Rom 8:28).

From a reflection of John Donahue, SJ.

In the early church the Epiphany cycle included other manifestations of Jesus—his baptism and the wedding at Cana. Today’s liturgy focuses on the third manifestation, the wedding feast at Cana, the first of Jesus’ signs, that is, symbols of the divine power at work in the incarnate Word. The Gospels this Sunday and next provide distinct pictures of the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry. Please click on this for the full article.

From a reflection of Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM

The Gospel of the second Sunday in Ordinary Time is the episode of the wedding feast at Cana. What did Jesus want to tell us by participating in a wedding feast?

Above all, in this way he in fact honored the marriage between man and woman, implicitly reaffirming that it is a beautiful thing, willed by the Creator and blessed by him. But he wanted also to teach us something else. With his coming the marriage between God and humanity promised through the prophets was realized under the name of the "new and eternal covenant."
Please click on this for the full article.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Sunday Cycle is C and not B as indicated in your title.