“About Zion I will not be silent. About Jerusalem I will not grow weary until her integrity shines out like the dawn. Like a young man marrying a virgin, so will the one who built you wed you, and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you.”
With these words the Prophet Isaiah summoned the people of Israel to a new beginning inaugurated by her return from exile and the imminent rebuilding of Jerusalem’s temple. Infidelity and languishing faith had led to Israel’s downfall. The unprecedented grace of God’s forgiveness would be the foundation of a renewed faith. “No longer are you to be named ‘Forsaken,’ nor your land ‘Abandoned,’ but you shall be called ‘My delight’ and your land ‘The Wedded’.”
The imagery of marriage beautifully described the relationship between God and his people. Like any human marriage, Israel’s relationship with God had experienced its highs and lows. At times it had seemed to be completely broken and, from any human perspective, had come to an end. The words of Isaiah demonstrated that God’s love is greater than any despair for past wrongdoing, and that repentance opens the door to a renewed love beyond our imagining.
During this Year of Faith, setting before us a faith rooted in God’s love, we have much to learn from Isaiah. Faith calls us to the totality of love revealed in Christ Jesus. Both as individuals, and as a Church, we can feel crushed by the past. Isaiah invites us to believe that God’s love, embraced with humble repentance, creates a new and yet more wonderful future. The Year of Faith is, above all else, a call to be created anew in the love of God.
Throughout the Old Testament the relationship between God and his people had been likened to the sacred bond of marriage. It was highly significant, therefore, that in John’s Gospel the public ministry of Jesus was begun at the wedding feast of Cana. Long ago the Prophet Isaiah had foretold a future in which God would rejoice in his people as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride.
The wedding feast at Cana was the sign proclaiming that in the ministry of Jesus this prophecy was to be fulfilled.
We are naturally drawn to the plight of a couple whose supply of festive wine was not adequate to the occasion. Their dwindling resources had a deeper and more universal significance. Sinful humanity, in all its frailty, can never provide a sure foundation for the future. If we are to build and plan for the future, then we can only do so only if, with Mary at the wedding feast, we commit our inadequacy to God. When the servants reported the lack to wine to Mary, she responded with an invitation to faith: “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus used the little that they had, the stone jars of water, to become the sign of his transforming love. “The steward tasted the water and it had turned into wine.”
The jars of water, always provided on such occasions for the ritual ablutions demanded by the law, represented the past, a past that had failed to bring Israel to the fullness of redemption. At Cana the Lord transformed the water of Israel’s past into the joyful wine of God’s presence.
Our lives, like the water at Cana, are transformed into joy of God’s presence through faith in Christ. The Year of Faith invites us to embrace with confidence the Lord who rejoices in us as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride. In Christ we are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.