Saturday, January 19, 2013

Homily for 2nd Sunday in OT - Pouring Wine into the Heart

Consenting to the Miraculous

Whenever Jesus does a miracle, he is reinforcing an important teaching and oftentimes pointing out a spiritual reality. So, for example, you might recall when Jesus heals the paralytic. The physical reality was that the man was paralyzed; the spiritual reality is that the people around him did not have faith. And so Jesus heals the paralyzed man to reinforce the teaching that Jesus is the God who comes to heal and forgive-- and to bring us a new life that rises and walks in faith.

So what is the problem that Jesus comes to heal today? Mary points it out: "They have no wine." On the physical level, the party is without wine. But on the deeper, spiritual level, something else is going on. This is where Jesus' and Mary's dialogue reveals to us the key about what is going on. After Mary tells Jesus that they have run out of wine, Jesus responds, saying:

Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not come.

This sounds harsh. Who calls their mother "Woman"? But Jesus is not being rude to mom. He is actually lifting her up and revealing her identity to us. How so? Well... Do you remember how Adam responds when God creates Eve? Adam says:

This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called.... Woman.

Jesus is drawing us to the beginning, to the time when Adam and Eve-- the first married couple, if you will-- lived in union with God. But, we know that they chose their own will over His and fell. Their relationship with God was devastated.

This is what Mary means when she says, "They have no wine." Not only is she pointing out a physical reality. She is also pointing out a spiritual state: this marriage is lacking divine love. Humanity needs grace! In this way, then, the married couple at Cana isn't just a random couple at Cana; nor is it simply an analogy for married couples now. In a deep way, the couple at Cana refer to Adam and Eve and thus to all humanity.

But when Jesus calls Mary "Woman," He does so not only to draw us to remember Eve, but to remember the prophecy that it would be a woman who would help bring about the healing between God and man-- a woman who would be clothed with the sun and crowned with the stars" (cf. Gen 3:15 and Rev 12:1ff)

And so we reach Jesus' question for Mary:

How does your concern affect me? My hour has not come.

What does this mean? Well, we must ask: How does Jesus reconcile God and man? How does he bring reunion? Well all know the answer: it is by way of the Cross. When Jesus talks about His "hour," He is talking about His passion and death-- a passion that begins at His Last Supper in the Upper Room when He lifts the chalice full of wine and says, "This is my blood."

So, when Jesus says "How does your concern affect me? My hour has not come," He is in turn asking Mary: Mother, do you want me to begin my hour, then? Do you will that my blood should be poured for their salvation? Do you realize what you are asking?

Mary, in turn, does not even respond to Jesus. She simply says to the headwaiter, "Do whatever He tells you." She is consenting and, wonderfully, by not directly responding to Jesus, she humbly surrenders complete control to Her Son. She is saying, "Yes, Jesus, but only as You will." Hence she tells the headwaiter: "Do whatever He tells you." I surrender all to Him.

The Superabundance of Wine

Here, we can turn to the miracle itself. Water is poured into six stone jugs which hold twenty to thirty gallons. If we do the math, we realize that, once the water is changed into wine, we have anywhere between 120-180 gallons of wine. ... That's what we call a party.

This is interesting to me. ...  Jesus could have just given the couple enough wine to get through the night. But He gives them a superabundance of wine. Physically, there is no way that this party could consume that much wine. And if they did, they would be intoxicated, inebriated!

... But this isn't just a physical reality, remember. This is also a spiritual reality. Jesus is pouring forth His grace. And His grace is superabundant.

Do you remember how the jugs were filled? They were filled "to the brim."

And do you remember the quality of the wine? It was the best. It wasn't cheap wine. It wasn't weak grace. It was the best. The tastiest. And there was a superabundance of it!

This is where I see the connection to the second reading and the key to all of these readings. In that reading we heard about the spiritual gifts. And where were these gifts first given? On Pentecost. It is there that the apostles are gathered. And who is gathered with them? Yes, The Woman! Mary! It is also the place where they had celebrated the Last Supper. Yes: Pentecost and the Last Supper happen in the same place: in the Upper Room.

So, there they all are, in the place where the First Mass was celebrated and Jesus had taken the chalice full of wine which He had turned into Blood. And it's now Pentecost and the Holy Spirit now rushes upon them all. They are filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit's superabundant graces-- His divine Love. And what happens? They emerge from the Upper Room "singing a new song to the Lord, announcing his salvation, day after day; telling his glory among the nations; and among all peoples, his wondrous deeds" (cf. Ps 96, the Psalm of the Mass).

They are so filled with joy and with God's love that the people who see this start to wonder what's wrong with this merry group. And what does that people conclude? They say that the Apostles are "drunk (filled) with new wine" (Acts 2:13). <see footnote 1>

Yes, as the Psalmist tells us, this wine, the Holy Spirit "gladdens the heart" (Ps 104:15)

The Marriage in the Eucharist: Saving the Best Until Now

And why all this gladness? Why the party? Well, that bring us to the last detail of today's miracle. The miracle and gladness comes at a wedding. Jesus could have done this miracle anytime that He wanted, but He does it at a wedding. Why? Well, this too points to a spiritual reality. And what is the reality? We hear it in our first reading:

As a young man married a virgin,
your Builder shall marry you;
and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride
so shall your God rejoice in you.

The marriage is between God and Us. He wants to pour His superabundant love into our hearts and be united to us. The Church, says Paul, is the bride of Christ (cf Eph 5). This marriage is brought to fulfillment when on the Cross Jesus pours out His blood-- the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant (that is, wedding vows). And then, from the Cross, He cries out: "It is finished!" Or, in Latin: "Consummatus est." That is: it is consummated. <see footnote 2>

And where does this all come together? Here, in the Eucharist. It is here that God offers the ecstasies of this heavenly marriage to us. He says, "Take... this is my body... this is my blood.... Drink...." The Father has saved the best wine until now-- because this wine is Jesus Himself.

And remember the superabundance! Just one morsel of this Eucharist, just one sip of the chalice, this is enough to gladden your heart. It comes with it the superabundance of God's love and an offer of union with Him. This is divine marriage and its joys are offered to all-- to the single people out there, to married couples, to priests. We are all invited to divine marriage with God and its wedding feast. 

Yes, my friends: there is enough wine of God's grace for you. If you are dry in your prayer life, God comes to refresh it-- He who thirsts for you. If you are dry in your marriage, see in the Eucharist the source for renewed passion and reconciliation. If you are lonely and longing for love: behold, your Love, here he comes! (cf. Song of Songs 2:8)

And Mary our Mother is at your side, imploring once more to our Lord, specifically on your behalf: “Jesus, my child has no wine.”

But now they do! Yes, He has saved the best wine until now.


< 1 >  Fun with scripture: When Hannah is pleading before the Lord in prayer (see 1 Sam 2), Eli the priest mistakes her to be drunk. But in fact she is praying in the Spirit, full with His love. Kind of related: In Greek, old wine was called "chrestos" which meant that is was mellow or smooth. Jesus uses this word in referring to his yoke which is easy (cf. Mt 11:30). That is to say, as one priest points out, that "it did not chafe, it was well-fitting and accommodated to the wearer." It is this word that is translated as "kindness"-- one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit-- that is, an attitude that goes beyond mere justice or what is required and is to be, rather, something wider and more accommodating. Kindness, therefore, is a Spirit-produced goodness which meets the needs of others and avoids harshness-- and it meets the needs of others often through prayer.

< 2 > More fun: When Jesus promises the Apostles at His Ascension that He will be "with them until the close of the age" (Mt 28:20), there is more than just Jesus returning when "everything's done" here on earth. The Latin reveals this. It says, "et ecce vobiscum sum omnibus diebus usque ad consummationem seculi"-- translation: and behold, I will be with you all days, even until the consummation of the world. Here is revealed the promise of consummation which comes at the end, but of which we receive a foretaste at every Holy Mass. Scot Hahn draws this point home (and its connection to the Book of Revelation) very nicely in his book, The Lamb's Supper.

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