Summary: When the wedding planner–maybe you’ve dealt with one sometime–tasted it, he pronounced it καλὸν, beautiful.
2nd Sunday after Epiphany 2018
It’s been almost thirteen years since Carolyn and I spent nearly two weeks in the Holy Land on pilgrimage, but many of the memories continue to enrich my study, prayer and preaching. The visit to Cana figures large in those recollections, and every year the Church gives us this precious gift, a time to reflect on the second chapter of St. John’s Gospel.
At Cana, there is a Catholic chapel where married couples may renew their wedding vows–an awesome experience, since Christ should be the central person at every wedding. You can step across the alley and buy a little bottle of the local Cana wine, which is referred to by the steward as quod detérius est. It is horrible stuff. Our Lord told His Mother “what is this to me and to thee; my hour has not yet come.” He was reminding Our Lady that as soon as He would start bringing about Messianic blessings like an abundance of wine, the authorities would take notice and He would begin His long trek to Calvary. So Mary put the whole situation into His divine hands by telling the servants: “Do whatever Jesus tells you.” Our Lady intercedes, but Our Lord decides.
When you visit the church at Cana, you will see a water jug that the archaeologists have dug up and the Church has displayed. So you know that these empty jars stayed put. The servants had to lug leather skins from the local well to fill them with water–to the brim–as much as 180 gallons, or 681 liters. And when the wedding planner–maybe you’ve dealt with one sometime–tasted it, he pronounced it ?a???, beautiful. So to put the gift Jesus gave this couple into context, today it would consist of 908 bottles of the finest vintage. So I priced one of the best wines of 2017 into the equation, “PERRIER-JOUET ‘BELLE ÉPOQUE’ BLANC DE BLANCS 2004" and in round numbers the King of Israel had given these young marrieds the equivalent of $318,000. God is never outdone in generosity.
St. Paul tells the Romans–and us–about the gifts of God. Each of us has a distinctive set of gifts. Paul tells us: “make a difference with your gift.” He is pretty blunt: if your gift is service, don’t just talk about it, SERVE! If you have a gift for teaching, teach. If you have the means to share your goods, then give generously.
So what is the takeaway from the Word of God today? Identify the gifts that God has given you, and then use them. My dad loved to sing, and I picked up that gift probably about the time I learned to talk. So I sing in my ministry whenever the occasion calls for music. One of the joys of being a deacon is being able to chant the Gospel; outside a Solemn High Mass, I can’t do that, so I sing the Epistle. Find your gift. It might be that you need additional training or education. As a child, I had a pronounced stammer. I needed training in public speaking to overcome that before I could be a teacher. Pray to God to show you your gift, and enlist the help of your family, friends, or spiritual director to discover and nurture it. And then use it for the upbuilding of the Church. Is there someone you love who has yet to love Christ and the Church? If you love that person, you will find a way to invite to a service, a Mass, a lesson. “Love one another with brotherly affection.”
One last thing, which is the first thing in John’s story, and the first thing we should do whenever we are working for the Lord. Enlist Mary’s interest in your project, and ask for her intercession. If it’s a good idea, Christ will supply all the grace needed. The Lord responds to Our Lady, so always ask her along. And, every day, “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”