Homily for January 20, 2013 (2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time): Fr. Scott Bullock


From a PORTLAND, Ore. Newspaper, from last Fall:

The next time you want to hire a caterer, be sure to do your homework.  Local brides are up in arms after a Portland catering company destroyed their weddings.  Lindsey Petrushkin was one of those brides. Petrushkin and her husband, Dusty, wrote their own vows, got married and then made their way to the reception. "And that was when everything fell apart," she said.

Petrushkin had hired Troy Meza, who runs Unique Catering and Pacific Northwest Events in Portland. His company was supposed to serve 200 guests. But by looking at all of the pictures of the reception, it's easy to see something is missing -- the food. On every table, there was no food from the company that promised hand-crafted gourmet dinners at $30 per plate.

Instead, the food the company purchased was in bulk from a grocery store that the catering company charred and blackened. [While grilling meat outside the bride’s parent’s building, where the reception was being held, the bride reported,] "They burned the side of my parents' building!” There was so little food and it was so late into the night that the family took emergency measures.

"My sister ended up leaving and ended up picking up pizzas from local pizza places in town," Petrushkin said. "I think she bought 15-20 pizzas and they all got eaten because people were hungry and this was at midnight." The smiles turned into tears as some guests left in search of food. "All I did at my wedding was go around and apologize to everyone there," Petrushkin said. But there was more. Petrushkin learned after the wedding that Meza is violent convicted criminal. "It's icing on top of the cake," Petrushkin said, though, unfortunately, there was no cake. Obviously, for this bride, her wedding day becomes a day of disgrace.

Now, at first glimpse, we see in today’s gospel another, more famous, potentially embarrassing ruined wedding day. The young couple of Cana hold what was likely one of the most important days of their life—their marriage.  They were from a small, poor town (today we’re not even sure where this town might have been, for it was so small, it appears on no historical map from Jesus’ time).  Nonetheless, they would have tried their best to provide a great celebration. But, as we hear, the wine runs out.  This was probably not because people drank too much, but rather because the couple was too poor to afford much. Their day of triumph becomes a day of disgrace.

However, unlike that wedding in Portland OR, this day of disgrace becomes, unexpectedly, a day of triumph! First, we see Mary, the Mother of God, do what is so characteristic of her—she intercedes for the couple. She goes to her son, for she knows who he is, and simply presents the couple’s need to him:  “They have no wine.” Jesus’ seeming delay presses Mary to only deeper confidence in her son, so she declares to the servers, “do whatever he tells you.” It is then that Jesus lavishes on the couple triumph—changing the simple element of water into wine.

So, of all the scenes in the life of Jesus, why might this scene, however amazing, been remembered with such detail by the beloved disciple John in his gospel? Two rich symbols from the religious imagination of the people of Israel would have revealed Jesus’ deeper intent:  a marriage and wine. Marriage is the much repeated biblical image of the relationship between God and his people:  God loves his people with the depth of marital love. Wine is the symbol of the lavish care of God for his people, providing a delicious treat that lifts our spirits to joy and delight.  It evokes the life of grace.

But, it is the combination of these two images that bring us to the reason of the importance of this simple scene—for it becomes symbolic of the larger relationship between God and his people. The wedding had become lifeless, fruitless, without joy. See then Mary joining the long line of the prophets, like the words of Isaiah in today’s first reading, in declaring that the relationship between God and his people has become lifeless, fruitless, above all because of the infidelity of the people to the commands of the Lord.  Further, she calls the people, like all the prophets, back to faithfulness:  “do whatever he tells you!” Into this now lifeless relationship comes the Lord himself, Jesus who is God, to restore the life of the marriage between God and his people through the lavish gift of spirit-lifting wine—the best wine saved for last, when we need it the most! At last, after generations of waiting, at last the last wine, the best, is brought to Israel in Jesus, God with us.

Good for this couple, disaster averted, embarrassment removed, joy restored! But—Good for us too! For, despite the indifference that familiarity can breed, each time we come to the Eucharist is our wedding day! For, what could be a clearer union between God and his people that the very life of God given to us in the Communion that happens at each commemoration of the Lord’s supper. “This is my Body, this is my Blood, given for you.” Just as the spouses give their very selves to each other in marriage, so Jesus gives his very life to us and we come to him, his beloved children and brides. And, just as simple water was changed to lavish wine at Cana, so here simple bread and wine, according to Jesus’ promise, become his Body and Blood, his very life, his life for our life and the life of the world.

In the honesty of our hearts, we know that we come here an unfaithful partner in the marriage that God desires with us. We have been unloving, unfaithful, self-absorbed. Yet, once again, this is our wedding day, when Jesus again changes our disgrace to triumph! For we come, impoverished, for we have been an unfaithful spouse. And, behold, our disgrace becomes triumph, as our groom lavishes upon us the very richness of divine life, the Eucharist.

On this, our Lord comes, despite our un-loveliness, to take us again as his own. Let the celebration begin anew!