In our family, a wedding is a big deal. My dad’s side of the family is Sicilian, and all of them live in Texas. A Sicilian Texas wedding reception has become more Texan than Italian: After the church ceremony, there is a barbecue brisket buffet and kegs of beer, followed by dancing and visiting. Lots of food, LOTS of beer, and then it’s time to dance and party. My mom was from Belgium, and I’ve had the privilege of attending a few family weddings there. They were much more elegant, but the principle was the same: gourmet dinner, fine wines, and then dancing.
When I lived in Colombia as a newly ordained priest, wedding receptions went on from Saturday evening until Sunday evening, usually, unless it was a three-day weekend—then the party went on until sometime Monday. Loud music, dancing, and lots of aguardiente were part and parcel of any celebration. The wedding parties we North Americans usually throw are very subdued in comparison.
In Jesus’ day, there was no equivalent to the “church wedding.” Marriage was in three stages: First, there was the contract between the bride and groom, or their families. (This is the stage at which it seems Joseph and Mary’s marriage was at the time of the Annunciation.) Then, sometimes several years later, the marriage is “consummated”; for the first time, the couple have sexual relations. At this point the couple emerges from the bedroom and the feast begins. It would go on for days.
Our gospel passage this weekend occurs at this third stage, during the wedding feast. People have been feasting and rejoicing, because the bride and bridegroom have been united. Lots of wine has been drunk. And then the unthinkable occurs: They’ve run out of wine! This would be a great embarrassment for the groom and his family, who were the hosts of the feast. Jesus, though, at the urging of his mother Mary, remedies that, in a story that we all know and love. It is one of the three “epiphanies,” (along with the arrival of the magi and Jesus’ baptism) that the Eastern Churches celebrate as one, and we Catholics separate into three special moments when God is made known.
It is really quite radical to think that God is made known in allowing a groom to save face and a party to continue, and a beautiful way to enter into this liturgical season of Ordinary Time. God is there in our parties. God is every part of our lives. Elsewhere in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that he came in order that we may have life and have it to the full. The 13th century poet Hafez says to stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive. I think Jesus would agree. I pray that we all may live all the days of our lives.
Speaking of life, I imagine you know of Fr. George Beaune’s birth into eternal life. Let us rejoice in thanking God for his many years of service to the parish, to the Church, and to all God’s people, in so many different ways. I am quite sure that he is now at the great wedding banquet in the Kingdom. St. George, pray for us!