Marriage
Part 2 The Rite of Marriage

Chapter 27 Lectionary: Gospels

About This Page

805-1 Matthew 5:1-12a – Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

805-2 Matthew 5:13-16 – You are the light of the world.

805-3 Matthew 7:21, 24-29 – A wise man built his house on rock.

805-4 Matthew 19:3-6 – What God has united, man must not separate.

805-5 Matthew 22:35-40 – This is the greatest and first commandment, the second is like it.

805-6 Mark 10:6-9 – They are no longer two, but one flesh.

805-7 John 2:1-11 – Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana of Galilee.

805-8 John 15:9-12 – Remain in my love.

805-9 John 15:12-16 – This is my commandment: love one another.

805-10 John 17:20-26 – That they may be brought to perfection as one.

About This Page

This web page contains the Gospel readings for marriage.  The paragraph of background material (exegesis) together with the homily hints  were  originally written by participants in the course "Sacrament of Marriage" and are intended to be of practical assistance to couples planning their wedding ceremony and to pastors and others preparing to preach on these texts.   These paragraphs are not entirely original and are taken for the most part from the books listed in the section "Works Consulted."  We hope they will be helpful to you in planning the wedding liturgy.

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805-1 Matthew 5:1-12a – Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
    and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:

    "Blessed are the poor in spirit,
        for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are they who mourn,
        for they will be comforted.
    Blessed are the meek,
        for they will inherit the land.
    Blessed are they who hunger and thirst
            for righteousness,
        for they will be satisfied.
    Blessed are the merciful,
        for they will be shown mercy.
    Blessed are the clean of heart,
        for they will see God.
    Blessed are the peacemakers,
        for they will be called children of God.
    Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
        for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
        and utter every kind of evil against you falsely
            because of me.
    Rejoice and be glad,
        for your reward will be great in heaven."

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington. DC.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Exegesis

The beatitudes, found at the beginning of Matthew's "Sermon on the Mount," are a guide for Christian living.  Matthew uses scripture to describe what Jesus is all about, and what his disciples should look like, and to show that Jesus' teaching surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees.  The teaching that Jesus gives in the beatitudes offers a different way of assessing, or valuing, the world around us.  The Sermon on the Mount does this in such a way as to teach us how we are to respond to Jesus' message that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
  Matthew has Jesus teaching on a mountain to show that Jesus brings God's revelation, but the audience is much wider than just the original Chosen People.  Matthew also "spiritualizes" the beatitudes, which is different from Luke's version of the beatitudes.  The reward of those who are "blessed" is mainly in a future kingdom but breaks into the present.  God is the source of the happiness that comes with the beatitudes.
  The last beatitude in Matthew points out those who are persecuted for Jesus' sake, relating them to the Old Testament prophets who suffered.

Homily Hints

-Jesus gives us a world view that guides the way in which we see marriage.
-Jesus makes it possible for us to give ourselves away in marriage as a sacrament.
-Marriage in the Church and Christian living is counter cultural.
-The Kingdom of God is found not only in the good times of life but in those suffering times.

Works consulted

Neal M. Flanagan, O.S.M., “John,” The Collegeville Bible Commentary: New Testament, (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 1992), 869-870.

Exegesis by Bill McDonald

According to the Rite of Marriage, "The Beatitudes form the prologue to the programmatic discourse of Jesus which, following Matthew’s arrangement we call the Sermon on the Mount. The presence of Jesus among men is a happy sign of the coming of the kingdom of God. It forms the response to the anawim: the poor, the afflicted and the hungry (vv 3.5.6; Is 58, 6-10; 61, 1-3; 49,8-13). Thus, Jesus sets forth for all ages the qualities of the disciples of the kingdom of God. The Beatitudes directed to those persecuted for the sake of Christ correspond to a more advanced and difficult phase of his ministry. By walking the path of the Beatitudes, the Christian goes on to meet Christ in the present and also definitive phase of the kingdom." (Rite Of Marriage. NCCB; Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York; 1970. 152)  This passage doesn’t really speak about marriage, but is basically for the Christian life. The Sermon on the Mount is not just one single sermon preached on one single occasion. But it is far more than that. There are good and compelling reasons for thing that the Sermon on the Mount is far more than one sermon. It’s a kind of personification of all the sermons that Jesus ever preached. "The Beatitudes contain three elements: first, the pronouncement of blessedness; second, the present attitude, state, or activity of those so pronounced; and third, the promise of salvation at the end. ‘Blessed’ means that they are already now enjoy the promise of future salvation." (Harpers Bible Commentary. Harper: San Francisco, 1988. p 955)   

Homily Hints by Bill McDonald

The beatitudes declare persons or groups are to be blessed or happy and even though this passage isn’t specifically for a wedding it could be speaking to the wedding party and also those in attendance sitting in the pews listening. "The qualities meriting the blessings as given in the pronouncements of Christ outline a single, consistent outlook. They assure entry, or possession of the kingdom of God (heaven), and guarantees that the basic teachings of the Church are especially important in teaching the specifics of morality." (Robert C. Broderick. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN; 1987, p 70)

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805-2 Matthew 5:13-16 – You are the light of the world.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"You are the salt of the earth.
But what if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
    but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it
        under a bushel basket;
    it is set on a lamp stand,
    where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
    that they may see your good deeds
    and glorify your heavenly Father."

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington. DC.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Exegesis

In this famous passage, Jesus calls his disciples the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.”  These images define the identity of those who follow Jesus, and they challenge Christians to reflect on their role in the world (SP).  Not only must Christians strive for their own holiness, but for the sanctification of others as well (Navarre).

Just as salt preserves food, the disciple is one called to “improve the quality of human existence and preserve it from destruction” (CBC).  Salt also improves the flavor of food and makes it more pleasant, all while disappearing into the food.  Christians should do these things with those around them (Navarre).  Salt does not lose its taste, but its taste may be weakened if not used (SP).

The light image comes from Isaiah 2:2-5, which deals with Israel’s vocation to be a “light to the nations.”  Jesus, too, in this passage, challenges his followers to be actively engaged in doing good works so that others may come to praise God (SP).  For the disciple, being a light also involves witnessing his or her fidelity to God, as well as acting as a beacon of light in the world (CBC).  St. Therese of Lisieux held that the lamp was a symbol of charity that should shine for all.  The “light” of the Christian should shine through his or her life and works so that others may be drawn to God (Navarre).

Homily Hints

*  The vocation of marriage is related to the vocation of each Christian to go out and be “salt” and “light.”  As a marriage couple, the husband and wife live this out together.
*  Just as salt flavors food while disappearing into it, each member of the couple should look to how they can lessen their own wants so that the partner and the relationship will grow and prosper, and so that both will grow in holiness.
*  Together, the couple can be a beacon of light for the world, both through doing good works together, but also by witnessing to the love and fidelity of God through their love and fidelity.

Sources

Daniel J. Harrington, “Matthew.” The Collegeville Bible Commentary [CBC] (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1989), 870.
Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew. Sacra Pagina [SP] (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1989), 80-84.
Saint Matthew’s Gospel. The Navarre Bible (Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts Press, 1991), 59-61.

Exegesis by Tony Densmore

This passage immediately follows the Beatitudes in Matthew’s gospel. Here Jesus is speaking directly and emphatically to his disciples that they are the salt of the earth. Salt had several meanings in the Old Testament and Matthew is probably drawing on them here. Eating together was a symbol of loyalty and covenant fidelity in the OT and was called at times, "sharing salt." Salt was also associated with sacrifice, purification, and seasoning. Salt does not lose its taste unless it becomes "adulterated" or impure by mixing with something else. Jesus seems to be implying that the disciples too will be thrown out as useless if they deny their mission or are not totally faithful to it.
The disciples are also light of the world according to Jesus. The function of light in this case is not to be seen, but to let things be seen as they are. The disciples themselves are not to shine their own light, but to cast light on the world, to show the world to itself as it really is. In the OT Israel’s mission was to be a "light to the nations", but Israel failed. In Matthew’s eyes this mission has now fallen to the Jews and Gentiles in the Church. The city set upon a mountain is an allusion to Jerusalem built upon Mount Zion which now more than likely has become the new Jerusalem, the Church of Christ’s disciples.

Homily Hints by Tony Densmore

To the wedding couple this passage could come across as a little odd to use in their ceremony. However, with a little instruction I think one can see how appropriate and poignant this passage really is. Beginning with the salt metaphor, one must realize that salt does not go bad, or lose its taste, by itself. Something must interfere with its chemical makeup, its bonds, for it to lose its taste. Likewise, if the couple is to be the salt of the earth, they must not let anything, no matter how trivial, come between that which joins them as a married couple. One could also weave in the theme of covenant fidelity and loyalty alluded to by the "sharing salt" metaphor.

Equally important is the idea that the couple is the light of the world. In their oath of fidelity to each other the couple witnesses to and illumines the world about the nature of true love, namely the love with which God first loved us. The love with which the couple loves each other is to be like the city set upon a mountain which cannot be hidden. The married couple has the privilege and responsibility of shining before all people what in fact they are, the symbol of Christ’s love for his Church. Thus, they are like a light that never dims, a light that glows and warms, a light that illumines the world for us to see God and the love he showers on us.

1. New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX, (Nashville, TN: Abington Press, 1995), p. 181.
2. Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., The Gospel of Matthew in Sacra Pagina, (Collegevile, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1991), p. 80.
3. NIB, 181.
4. Ibid. Cf. Isa 42:6, 49:6.

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805-3 Matthew 7:21, 24-29 – A wise man built his house on rock.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
    will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
    but only the one who does the will
        of my Father in heaven.

"Everyone who listens to these words of mine
        and acts on them
    will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
    and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse;
        it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
    but does not act on them
    will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
    and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined."

When Jesus finished these words,
    the crowds were astonished at his teaching
    for he taught them as one having authority,
    and not as their scribes.

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington. DC.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Exegesis

To be genuine, prayer must be accompanied by a persevering effort to do God’s will.  Similarly, in order to do his will it is not enough to speak about the things of God: there must be consistency between what one preaches, what one says, and what one does.  One has to practice what one preaches, to produce fruit, which accords with one’s words.  Christians, holding loyally to the Gospel, enriched by its resources, and joining forces with all who love and practice justice, have shouldered a weighty task on earth and they must render an account of it to him who will judge all on the last day.  God should find us faithful like another Job or Abraham in times of tribulation.
If we are to stay strong in times of difficulty, we need, when things are calm and peaceful, to accept little contradictions with a good grace, to be very refined in our relationship with God and with others, and to perform the duties of our state of life in a spirit of loyalty and abnegation. By acting in this way we are laying down a good foundation, maintaining the edifice of our spiritual life and repairing any cracks which make their appearance. 
Jesus’ listeners could clearly see the radical difference between the style of teaching of the scribes and Pharisees, and the conviction and confidence with which Jesus spoke.  There is nothing tentative about his words; they leave no room for doubt.  Thus everyone needs to practice the virtues he preaches.  “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but those who do the will of the Father, and who manfully put their hands to the work.” (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 93)

Homily Hints

Be faithful to each other in time of trial and difficulty.
Perform good acts for each other. 
Prayer must be present in a marriage.

Source

The Navarre Bible.  The Gospel of St. Matthew.  Four Courts Press. 1993.

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805-4 Matthew 19:3-6 – What God has united, man must not separate.

Some Pharisees approached Jesus and tested him, saying,
    "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife
        for any cause whatever?" 
He said in reply, "Have you not read that from
        the beginning
    the Creator
made them male and female and said,
    For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
    and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become
        one flesh?
So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
Therefore, what God has joined together,
        man must not separate."

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington. DC.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Exegesis

(A)
  "Matthew's presentation of Jesus teaching on marriage and divorce in verses 4-9 first cites Gen. 1:27 (v.4) and Gen 2:24 (v.5) to the effect that in God's original plan of creation marriage was indissoluble and no human agent could end such a union (v.6)."

Dianna Bergent, C.S.A. and Robert Karris, O.F.M., The Collegeville Bible Commentary,(Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1989) 889.

(B)
  "6. What God has joined: Since this union is a work of creation and formally stated in the law, it is the work of God, with which man may not tamper."

Raymond Brown, and Joseph Fitzmeyer and Roland Murphy, The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Vol. II, (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, Inc. 1968) 96.

(c)
  "The union of husband and wife as "one flesh" (physical, personal, parental) is the creation of God and is not at the husband's disposal.


Homily Hints

(A)
  Re-enforce to wedding couple, that God is backing them.  This is similar in that the church backs the couple.  It might be nice to tell the wedding couple, that if needed that we as pastors are available to help them.
(B)
  That since God has joined them as husband and wife, they have a new responsibility, not to look for their best interest, but rather look for their spouse best interest.  By looking for their spouse best interest, they will become as one. 
(C)
  That both the husband and wife have a role in a marriage.  It takes both working as a team for a marriage to be a success.

Sources

Eugene Boring, The New Interpreter's Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Vol. VIII, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995) 386.

Exegesis by Steve Dabrowski

Matthew 19:3-6 indicates a radical dimension of Jesus’ ideology. In this passage, Jesus forthrightly addresses an issue of great debate among the Hillel and Shammai rabbinic circles, and it is believed that the Pharisees were attempting to politically polarize Jesus’ position with that of one of the above schools.  (Benedict T. Viviano, The Gospel According to Matthew  ed. Raymond E. Brown, et. al. in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990, p. 662. See also, Jack Dean Kingsbury, Matthew ed. Gerhard Krodel in Proclamation Commentaries Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986, pp. 87-8.) The issue in question is that of divorce.

The Pharisees ask Jesus whether or not it is permissible for a man to divorce his wife for "any reason whatever." (Lectionary for Mass New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co, 1970, p. 945)  Some have speculated that the Pharisees were trying to trip Jesus up by making him deny Mosaic Law; however, this point has been denied by Jewish scholarship since Jesus was not refuting a specific law but only questioning the intent. (Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew ed. James Luther Mays in Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Louisville: John Knox Press, 1993.  p 220)

The main consideration for an exegesis of this pericope within the context of the sacrament of marriage revolves around Jesus’ understanding of the marriage covenant. In this regard, it becomes clear that Jesus moved beyond Mosaic Law to the original intent of the Creator at the beginning of the world. (Ibid., p 220) From this perspective one begins to see the development of the Church’s position on marriage as the union of persons to become "one." (Lectionary for Mass  New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co, 1970, p 945)  This understanding informs the Church’s position on the indissolubility of marriage, and it does so from Jesus’ own words.

The passage continues to address areas of adultery (mochasthai) and illicitness (porneia), and this effects a substantial distinction. (Raymond Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament New York: Doubleday, 1997, p 194.  See also, Donald Senior, The Gospel of Matthew Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997, p 146) According to Donald Senior, the distinction regarding porneia actually renders a marriage unlawful or invalid; therefore, Jesus prohibition is sustained as complete and without exception. (Donald Senior, The Gospel of Matthew Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997, p 146)  In other words, the answer to the pharisaic question is an emphatic "no." As Douglas Hare observes, "[for] the greater part of Christian history, Matthew’s version of Jesus’ teaching on divorce served both as the law of the church and the law of the land wherever Christianity was the dominant religion…." (Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew ed. James Luther Mays in Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching Louisville: John Knox Press, 1993, p 223)

It is significant to note that the proceeding verses to this pericope regard the matter of celibacy. One could observe the development of the Church’s understanding of celibacy in relation to marriage from this text. (Ibid., p. 220.) Regardless, the location of these sayings of Jesus within near proximity to each other suggests an implicit development of the legal and ecclesial understanding of both vocations within the Matthean community. With the mention of celibacy, chapter 19 may be seen to take on an even greater polemical tone arguing against the Jewish contention that marriage was the "normal and God-intended way of life" (Donald Senior, The Gospel of Matthew Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997, p 147) Regardless, this takes this essay beyond its exegetical scope.

Homily Hints by Steve Dabrowski

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805-5 Matthew 22:35-40 – This is the greatest and first commandment.  The second is like it.

One of the Pharisees, a scholar of the law,
        tested Jesus by asking,
    "Teacher, which commandment in the law
        is the greatest?"
He said to him,
    "You shall love the Lord, your God,
    with all your heart,
    with all your soul,
    and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
    You shall love you neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend
        on these two commandments."

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington. DC.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Exegesis

The answer Jesus quotes when ask  “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” no rabbi could have called anything but an excellent answer.  Jesus quotes two texts of the Law that form the foundation of the new morality of the gospel. We may well say that here Jesus laid down the complete definition of religion.  Religion consists of loving God. 
The first of these two commandments Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:5. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” To God we must give a total love, a love that dominates our emotions, a love that directs our thoughts, and a love that is the dynamic of our actions.  All religion starts with the love that is total commitment of life to God. 
The second commandment Jesus quotes is from Leviticus 19:18. “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”  Our love for God must issue in love for neighbor.  Love of God must come first however.  It is only when we love God that our neighbor becomes lovable.
God in marriage is essential.  Loving God in your marriage is essential.  It is only by loving God is the couple able to love each other in the perfect way in which God has intended.

Homily Hints

v By keeping just these two commandments a marriage will last. 
v
Keeping and loving God in their marriage will strengthen it and make it possible to handle any struggle
v
I would suggest the couple say the Our Father prayer together.  I would suggest they say it together every day of their married life.

Resources

HarperCollins Study Bible, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York, NY.1989
Pg. 279, 182.
Daily Study Bible Series, William Barclay, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1975 Pg.278-279.
The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ., 1968
Pg. 101.
 

Exegesis by

Homily Hints by

 

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805-6 Mark 10:6-9 – They are no longer two, but one flesh.

Jesus said: 
"From the beginning of creation,
    God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
    and be joined to his wife,
    and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
    no human being must separate."

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington. DC.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Exegesis
 
This passage in Mark's Gospel is the fundamental text upon which the Church bases the permanence of Marriage.In early first century Palestine, during the time of Jesus, the tradition was so that a man could divorce his wife, if she displeased him, by merely signing a writ of divorce.  Needless to say; women did not enjoy the same privilege according to the Mosaic Law. This passage prefaces one of Jesus’ manifestations as someone powerful enough to change Mosaic Law because he places men and women on equal footing.  Men could commit adultery as well, as it was Roman law of that time.  Jesus teaches us that marriage is for life, neither partner can dismiss the other. This gave women protection.
This text also has Jesus showing his authority by quoting the revelation of God as written in Genesis 1:27: “So God created humans in his own image, in the image of God he created them male and female.” By our physical creation, God gave to us a special identity by our very nature.  Our ontology is meaningful to God the creator.  This means that our very being, our identity, as male and female, is affected by what we do with our bodies.  Marriage should ideally mirror the sacrifice that Jesus made for humanity upon the cross.  The bridegroom and his bride (Christ and the Church) model especially for married couples the gift of self that is required in the espousing act.  The sacred institution of marriage is something that involves not only a total commitment between man and woman but also between the couple and God Himself. We have inherited a rich blessing in the institution of marriage, and it is in the institution of marriage that humanity shares in God’s continual creation.  It is no accident that the Bible uses marital symbolism to show the depth of God's love for His creation.

Homily Hints

Life is about getting to know and love God.  Starting with Creation and the Creator we are brought immediately to the creatures.  Marriage shares in the creative, sharing, loving and forgiving nature of God. 
Using the image of the two becoming one flesh: and how this builds the family, the community and the Church. One may talk about the complimentarity of roles within the marriage and the equality of dignity.
The exclusive and a permanent relationship within the marriage Covenant.

Sources
 
Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine, Ed. by Russell Shaw 1997.
New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, St. Matthew and St. Mark, by Henry Wansbrough OSB, 1969.

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805-7 John 2:1-11 – Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana of Galilee.

There was a wedding in Cana in Galilee,
    and the mother of Jesus was there. 
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. 
When the wine ran short,
    the mother of Jesus said to him,
    "They have no wine."
And Jesus said to her,
    "Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come."
His mother said to the servers,
    "Do whatever he tells you."
Now there were six stone water jars there
        for Jewish ceremonial washings,
    each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told them,
    "Fill the jars with water."
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
    "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter."
So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water
        that had become wine,
    without knowing where it came from
    (although the servants who had drawn the
        water knew),
    the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
    "Everyone serves good wine first,
    and then when people have drunk freely,
        an inferior one;
    but you have kept the good wine until now."
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana
        in Galilee
    and so revealed his glory,
    and his disciples began to believe in him.

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington. DC.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Exegesis

The wedding at Cana is the first of the “signs” in John’s “Book of Signs” (Gospel According to John 1:19-12:50). It marks the transition from the revelation of Jesus (as God’s son and the “Lamb of God,” acknowledged by John the Baptist and the first disciples) to Jesus’ public ministry. The climax of the wedding miracle is the changing of water into excellent wine. Abundant wine was prophesized as a sign of the messianic age (Amos 9:13; Joel 2:24). So, the changing of water to wine is a sign of Jesus as the messiah. The water that was used was most likely the same water that was used to purify the guests, according to Jewish law, so that they could participate in the wedding celebrations. This sign of Jewish purity and identity is then used by Jesus to establish his own identity as messiah. It can also be seen as the symbolic joining of the Old Covenant with the New Covenant. 

Water is a recurrent image in John’s Gospel. Jesus describes himself as “living water,” he has an important encounter with a woman at a well, he walks on water, and he washes his disciples’ feet. However, at Cana, the water becomes something that it was not previously. Jesus is seen as something different from this moment as well.

Had the wine run out, the family would have been shamed before their guests. This miracle, though it serves to clarify who Jesus really is, is one of hospitality. It is to protect the standing of this married couple and their families. Jesus’ mother is the one who points out this need to Jesus. Note too that this is a community event. The marriage does not occur in isolation or secrecy. It is publicly celebrated, with the community (seen in Mary’s actions) present to care for this newly married couple.

This event parallels Calvary. Both are “hours” in Jesus’ life and ministry. His ultimate hour comes at Calvary. In this gospel, Mary disappears after Cana and does not appear again until Calvary. One begins Jesus’ earthly ministry; the other ends it. The wine of the wedding feast foreshadows the wine of the last supper and the blood of Calvary. Therefore, Cana anticipates Calvary.

Homily Hints

From the miracle at Cana, the water becomes something “different.” Jesus is seen differently. The man and woman, joined together in the covenant of marriage, also become something that they previously were not. No longer a separated man and woman, they are joined together in a sacred sacramental bond. “Two become one.”

The change from water to excellent wine indicates that Jesus can make the ordinary extraordinary. Grace allows two ordinary individuals to become more than their weaknesses. Jesus can make the couple something special!

The first miracle that Jesus works in John’s Gospel is at a marriage celebration. This fact would seem to show that marriage is something that Jesus found worthy of exalting by his presence and his miraculous powers.

Mary’s message to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you” is part of her on-going testimony of faith in whatever God tells her to do. She is therefore a model for us in this regard.

Works Consulted

Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997.

Jones, Larry Paul. The Symbol of Water in the Gospel of John. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997.

von Speyr, Adrienne. John: The Word Become Flesh. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1994.

Exegesis

This is a quite well known passage, and happens to be one of my all time favorites.  It is full of nice details that we can easily insert ourselves into the story:  everyone does enjoy a good wedding!  This particular wedding serves as the scene of Jesus' "inaugural" miracle.  Within John's gospel, it is Jesus' first miracle and thus serves as his first self-revelation, revealing his glory, to both the disciples and the wider audience.  Of course, Mary already knew of his powers, encouraging him in a way that only a mother could, even though he stated that his time had not yet come.  This spirit-filled mother's request was granted; the new wine was made.  This wine served not only to save the newlyweds from embarassment, but also to reveal the new wine of Jesus' mission, and to show us that Jesus can transform the boring water of our lives into something better than we can imagine.  From a more theological point of view, Jesus took the water symbolizing the purification of the Old Covenant and transformed it into the saving blood, his blood, of the New Covenant. 

Homily Hints

Of course Jesus helping the couple through problems and providing better wine than they could hope for is natural material for a wedding homily.  Mary's role in this story could be drawn out even more to show the importance of the family to the marital relationship.  One of my favorite wedding homilies ever was based on this passage, where a gruff but kind old priest elaborated on Jesus's presence at this Wedding in Cana, how he mingled with the guests and congratulated the couple, and probably even danced at their wedding.  He continued that now, 2000 years later, Jesus is also present here, offering this couple their own blessings and how he will too probably dance at their wedding.

Sources

The International Bible Commetary-Liturgical Press, ed. by William R. Farmer
The New Interpereter's Bible, Vol. IX-Abingdon Press, ed. by Neil M. Alexander.

Exegesis by Bill McCarthy

In the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus, the author of John’s Gospel elaborates about at wedding celebration at Cana in Galilee. Jesus and his family and disciples were invited to participate in a Jewish wedding feast that could have typically lasted up to seven days, as was the custom of the community. “Christ’s presence at the wedding at Cana is a sign that he blesses love between man and woman joined in marriage: God instituted marriage at the beginning of creation. (cf. Gen 1:27-28)”(Navarre Bible, St John's Gospel, Dublin:four Courts Press, 1987,61.)
Critical to the pericope was the acknowledgement that the wine failed. Wine is very symbolic in Hebrew Scriptures; it was a powerful symbol of both physical and spiritual joy, to future hope and the abundance of gifts and blessings. Mary sees the impending failure and appeals to Jesus for a remedy, and then tells the servants to follow her Son’s instructions. Jesus instructs the servants to fill six stone jars that were used for Jewish ceremonial washings with water, this is very symbolic of the Old Testaments notion of purity. Then “Jesus performs a sign filled with the promise that the yearnings of his mother and of the faithful of Israel will be fulfilled in the new age.”(John L. McKenzie, The Gospel According to St. John,New York: Crossroads,1981,26.)
Weddings are a time of celebrations, the Son of God did not come into the world to condemn it but to draw all men into the heavenly kingdom. In a marriage relationship it is important not to let words limit what should or can be done. In a marriage, actions many times speak louder than words and the pouring forth of love begets surprises for all. Just as in Cana, a Christian wedding has the presence of God and the witness of the community. To keep a marriage strong the couple must call upon Jesus, who is the center of the marriage relationship to overcome the challenges in living that will no doubt come.

Homily Hints by Bill McCarthy

Major themes to preach on include: 1) The sacred mystery of marriage, how it involves more tan just two people. 2) The changing of plain water (two individuals) into a new choice wine (one new identity). 3) The role of serving not being served, within the context of a marriage. 4) The abundance of blessings for those who ask God for them.

 

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805-8 John 15:9-12 – Remain in my love.

Jesus said to his disciples: 
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain
        in my love,
    just as I have kept my Father's commandments
    and remain in his love.

"I have told you this so that my joy might be in you
    and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another
        as I love you."

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington. DC.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Exegesis

In order to understand the concept of “remaining” emphasized by John in this passage, one must consider what comes before it.  This section of text from John, alongside the shepherd allegory in chapter 10, is the other significant instance where John is using parabolic language.  Here, the image is that of a vine, which is frequently used in the Old Testament to show Israel as being God’s choice vineyard.  Jesus uses it to show that he is the vine of the New Israel, showing us that He is the vine and we are the branches that must remain connected with the vine.  We remain connected by following the Lord’s command to love one another as Christ has loved us.  The love of which John speaks begins with the Father, comes through the Son to us and we are to mirror that love to Jesus by following his commandments and radiate the love to others through our lives.  Therefore, we must imitate the unselfish and unconditional love that Jesus expressed for us through his death on the cross.  We must be willing to lay down our lives for one another as John will tell us in the very next verse.  By giving ourselves totally for the sake of Jesus and those around us, we will find true and lasting joy.  For to imitate the love of Jesus is to remain connected to the vine whose instruments we become in bringing his limitless love to the world around us.


Homily Hints

It would be helpful to focus one’s attention on the unconditional love that Jesus expressed for us and draw the connection between the love that the man and woman must have for each other.  Marriage is a covenant, just like the covenant that Jesus established in his blood, and it requires the total self-giving of both partners.

It may also be beneficial to expand the vine imagery and consider the man and woman as two branches that have intertwined, yet still have their foundation in the same vine.  This can be useful to talk about the importance of prayer and focusing on their faith in Jesus, which should unite them.

Marriage is a covenant not only with one’s spouse, but with God.  By entering into this covenant the man and the woman become bearers of God’s love to the world around them.  In a very special way, the man and the woman become a model of divine love expressed in human terms.  The man and the woman participate in something that is beyond them and which embraces them and their relationship.


Works Consulted

Raymond Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, (New York: Doubleday, 1996), 354.

Neal M. Flanagan, O.S.M., “John,” The Collegeville Bible Commentary: New Testament, (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 1992), 1006.
 

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805-9 John 15:12-16 – This is my commandment: love one another.

Jesus said to his disciples:
    "This is my commandment: love one another
        as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
    to lay down one's life for one's friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you as slaves,
    for a slave does not know what his master
        is doing.
I have called you friends,
    because I have told you everything
        I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
    and appointed you to go and bear fruit
        that will remain,
    so that whatever you ask the Father in my
        name he may give you."

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington. DC.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Exegesis

St. John invoked the image of Jesus’ love as foundation for love and relationship among “his own”: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn.15: 12-16, esp. 12; c.f Jn.13: 34-35).

This image is restricted to one another, i.e. the community of Jesus’ disciples. It includes “the willingness to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jesus demonstrated the love he has for his own (his friends) in Lazarus story (Jn. 11:3, 11, 36) Moses testified to his friendship with God when he spoke to God with “boldness.” This tradition could be implied to the second saying about prayer: “so that whatever you ask the father in my name he may give you.”

Christians have been chosen and drawn by Jesus to “bear fruit” by their new status as “his own” (Christ’s friends).

Whereas Paul’s image of the body of Christ in 1 cor.12: 12-31 could be invoked to regulate the relations of Christians to each other, John’s imagery is concerned with Christians dwelling in Jesus.

Homily Hints

-Jesus has given us an example of how to love God and one another. He occupies an important role in every marriage.
-Christian married couples have the responsibility of sharing their self-gift of love with one another.
-The language of love is not just words; it must show itself in action.
-Prayer is important is preserving the relationship between husband and wife. Without prayer, marriage begins to die.

Works consulted

Raymond E. Brown. An introduction to the New Testament. (New York: Doubleday, 1997). 354.
Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A Fitzmyer, Roland E. Murphy, eds., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990). 976.
The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version. Ed. Wayne A. Meeks (San Francisco: HarperCollin Publishers, 1993).

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805-10 John 17:20-26 – That they may be brought to perfection as one.

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:
"I pray not only for my disciples,
    but also for those who will believe in me through
        their word,
    so that they may all be one,
    as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
    that they also may be in us,
    that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
    so that they may be one, as we are one,
    I in them and  you in me,
    that they may be brought to perfection as one,
    that the world may know that you sent me,
    and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
    that they may se my glory that you gave me,
    because you loved me before the foundation
        of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
    but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will
        make it known,
    that the love with which you loved me
    may be in them and I in them."

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington. DC.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Exegesis

The Gospel of John is directed toward a community that because of their belief that Jesus is the Messiah, are being alienated from the synagogues and berated by the Jewish authorities.  There is much conflict between the believers and non-believers.  In this passage, Jesus once again prays to his Father to grant unity and peace.  The prayer that Jesus offers pertains to a personal unity.  He looks to show that as both he and the Father are of the same being, so too is possible to have a personal unity between God and man.  It is through public witness of the disciples that he expects to express the love of God for men.  This witness would also further men's belief in Jesus' divine origin.  What unites God and Son, man and man, and God to man is love.
Jesus' prayer stresses the importance for us to place Him first in our lives.  Our ultimate destiny is to be with Christ and see his glory.  The entire prayer is based upon God's righteousness, for it is he who will glorify Jesus.  Jesus expressed this righteousness in a very intimate manner showing the disciples the love of God through himself.
Another key point of emphasis in this passage is that of community.  The entire prayer channels the disciples' thoughts towards maintaining a sense of "oneness."  Mutuality, intimacy, and reciprocity define this oneness.  The final end of the community's achievement of this will reflect the completed work of God in the same way that Jesus' life and death did.  Ultimately, their purpose is to serve as a witness to the world of God's love by truly becoming united with God and Jesus in one love.  This love points to a future – one that is communal in nature and that both transcends and transforms human and divine communities.  Until that time, the community is to carry on with the help of the Paraclete and maintain the love of the Incarnation by living as Jesus lived.

Homily Hints

*  Emphasis on community:  God, Jesus, and couple
*  Jesus' prayer for his disciples:  Continue the work begun in preparing for the future
*  Opening ourselves to another allows for greater understanding and thus greater love. 
*  Focus upon being a public witness – like the disciples, but now as a couple
*  Relying upon the Paraclete to assist us
*  "Oneness" idea is multi-faceted
*  Scriptural Parallels:  1Cor 12:12-13; Jn 15; Heb 2:9-10)

Sources

1.  New Interpreter's Bible Commentary, editor: Leander Keck, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), Vol 9, pgs 794-796.
2.  The Expositor's Bible, editor: Frank E. Gaebelein, (Grand Rapids: Zandervan Publishing House, 1979), Vol 9, pgs 166-168.
3.  Raymond Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, (New York: Doubleday, 1996), 335.

Exegesis

In Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel, Jesus, as a final gesture, prays for his disciples, before he begins his passion. The single theme of His prayer from its opening to its closing is for his disciples and those who believe to “make God known.” In v. 3 Jesus states that eternal life comes from knowing God and Jesus Christ whom God sent. In v. 8 He affirms that the disciples have come to know God and the one whom God sent. In the final section, Jesus asks the Father that such knowledge will be the fruit of oneness among all believers.
The last part of the prayer (vv. 20-26) Jesus prays that through the word of the disciples, God will be made known in the oneness of all who believe in him. This oneness of love among the Father, the Son, and all believers, will result in sharing in his glorification, which will continue to make God know. When Jesus prays to the Father ‘that they all be one…even as we are one’ he is that there is a parallel between the union among the divine persons and the union between the believers in God’s truth and love. This unity between God and His Church is for the benefit of all mankind, because since the Church is one and unique, she is seen as a sign raised up for the nations to see, inviting all to believe in Jesus Christ a sent by God come to save all men. The Church carries on this mission of salvation through its union with Christ, calling all humankind to join the Church, and by doing so to sharing in the union with Christ and the Father.
Jesus concludes his prayer by asking that ‘all that you have sent me’ may attain the blessedness of heaven. He uses the words ‘I desire”, not ‘I pray”, indicating the he is asking for the most important thing of all, for what his Father wants—that all may be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth: which is the mission of the Church—the salvation of souls.

Homily Hints

Some themes that lend itself to this Gospel passage are: 1) The relationship of husband and wife is a symbol to others of the relationship between God and Jesus Christ and between Jesus Christ and the Church. 2) The salvation of souls is the primary mission of the Church. The salvation of each others souls is the primary mission of husband and wife.

Sources

Daniel J. Harrington, editor, Sacra Pagina, The Gospel of John, (Collegeville, Minn: The Litirgical Press, 1998)
Brian Mc Carthy, translation, The Navarre Bible, The Gospel of Saint John, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1987)

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© Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 06/05/07 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at webmaster@tomrichstatter.org.