A Love Story Like No Other

by Edmond Lo
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 62:1-5

1 Corinthians 12:4-11

John 2:1-11

“As 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.” (Is. 62:5)

Want to know whether you really understand the Bible well? Take a simple test: What’s your immediate reaction on hearing the above verses from this Sunday’s first reading? Are you “cut to the heart”, the way the three thousand persons were on the prompting of the Holy Spirit after hearing Peter’s first sermon (c.f. Acts 2:37-41)? Do you feel like you’re left thunderstruck? Are you filled with excitement, edging to jump up and down, as though some firecrackers in your pants had just got ignited? Excuse the language but you’ve got the idea. If my words come across as too much of a melodrama, I’m just telling you my personal experience.

In the passage, God is addressing Israel through prophet Isaiah. If we hear Him right, He is saying He wants to marry Israel. O, my Lord! Who is “Israel”? The historical nation of Israel or some mysterious entity that God has fallen in love with? Why would God want to marry Israel, whoever that is? How is this divine-human marriage going to be consummated? What is it like to live in a conjugal relationship with our Creator who created us? To think about it, just asking these questions is reason enough for us to doubt our own sanity!

Fortunately, whenever we lose our way in reading the Bible, the Church Magisterium always comes to our rescue.

Simply put, Israel is us – “the Church of Christ”, “the new Israel” (LG 9). The Israel of old is but a prefiguration of the Church, “the new Israel” (LG 2, 9). “While on earth [the Church] journeys in a foreign land” as though she’s in exile, advancing and “[pressing] forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God” until she is fully glorified and received into the Kingdom of God (LG 6, 8). God wants to “marry us” in the sense that He wants His Church to enter into a faithful and everlasting communion with Him. Like the loving and one-body conjugal union between husband and wife in an earthly marital relationship, our intimate, union with God is free, faithful, fruitful, and total (without reservation). Its consummation is the new and everlasting covenant that our Lord, Jesus, has instituted and sealed by shedding his own blood and offering his own life for us on the Cross, making us mysteriously his Body – the Body of Christ (LG n.9, 1 Cor 11:23-25, Lk 22:20).

Espoused to Christ, the bridal Church renews the new and everlasting covenant every time she celebrates the Eucharist, enabling her to live in conjugal union with her husband, Jesus, in one Body (Eph 5:23). Yes, we risk losing our sanity if we insist on pushing our reasoning faculty to its limits to try to understand exactly what this conjugal relationship is like. After all, as the great Apostle teaches, “this is a great mystery” (Eph 5:32). In full consciousness of the Mystical Body of Christ and living in conjugal union with her husband who is her head (1 Cor 12:13, Eph 5:23), the Church must rejoice and “proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations”, this Sunday’s responsorial Psalm chants in jubilation (Ps. 96:3).

This marriage of heaven and earth between Christ and his Church is the crown jewel of God’s new Creation, ushered in by Christ Incarnate who “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” according to John (Jn 1:14). The incarnation of Christ is the “marriage” between divinity and humanity. It’s the theme that John uses to begin his gospel, starting from a Genesis-like, 7-day account of the New Creation, and culminating in the “sign” of the wedding of Cana (c.f. Jn 2:11), this Sunday’s gospel reading - a sign that points us to the fulfillment of God’s promise to marry Israel (Is 62:5).

In the final account, the Bible is really a love story from the beginning to the end. It begins with the broken marriage of Adam and Eve and ends with the joyful marriage of Christ (New Adam) and his Church (New Eve) in heaven (c.f. Rev 19). It truly is a romance like no others!