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Word to Life
By SHARON K. PERKINS

January 17, 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

First Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5

Responsorial Psalm: 96:1-3, 7-10

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Gospel: John 2:1-11

In January 2014 I was able to fulfill the dream of a lifetime by traveling to the Holy Land on pilgrimage. A highlight of the trip for many of my traveling companions was attending Mass in the Wedding Church at Kafr Cana, a century-old chapel built over the site associated with the miracle in today's Gospel.

At the end of the homily, married couples were given the opportunity to renew their wedding vows, and I recorded some poignant videos of several friends doing so. But the reason I was able to capture the images is because my own spouse was not with me that day.

My husband had a previously scheduled business commitment that he was unable to set aside, so I traveled to Israel without him. I bought him a souvenir bottle of Cana wine and consoled myself with the knowledge that he would make the same pilgrimage a few months later, but I felt our separation acutely.

We're at a point in our 37-year marriage when our children are grown, our respective careers make great demands on our time, various losses have taken their toll and some of our closest contemporaries have separated or divorced. Amid such profound challenges, a renewal of our own vows among friends in such a sacred place would have been reassuring.

In the first reading, Isaiah prophesies the end of Israel's exile, using the celebratory image of a reunited bride and bridegroom to describe the joyful encounter of a people with their God. Against this backdrop, the beginning of Jesus' ministry at a wedding in Cana has hopeful implications for believers who struggle with God's call to Christian marriage.

Even the strongest marriages of faith-filled couples are relentlessly tested from without and within. The wine of young romance lasts for a limited time and as at Cana, those emptying jars, left to themselves, can eventually signal a crisis.

On our wedding day, my husband and I consecrated ourselves to each other—but we also consecrated our marriage to Jesus and to his mother. Sustaining our commitment requires daily (sometimes hourly!) reconsecration and hard work. But Jesus promises to replenish our empty vessels with an abundance of new wine, even better than the old, if we but entrust our marriage to his care.

QUESTIONS:

Have you ever felt acutely separated or exiled from God? What do today's readings say to you about how highly God upholds marriage as a sign of his faithfulness to his people? To you personally?

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