Does this song cry out to heaven for vengeance? Or is it actually something (kind-of) beautiful?
I would not hold it forward as the best poem of the 21st century. That said, the image shines forth clear enough.
I think the Lord would object to being presented as Someone with Whom to throw back a few backstage. After all, we read as much about the prayer, study, and austerity in His pilgrim life as we do about His attending wedding banquets.
But, on the other hand: Isn’t it true that, yes, He would understand a heart like mine? And that Sacred Scripture does teach us to look forward to a banquet, which probably would involve long-stemmed glasses?
I do not mean to stereotype. But we can take note of clear cultural differences sometimes. For instance, when you meet a Japanese person, you will likely receive a friendly bow. On the other hand, when you meet an Italian, you might wind up with wet kisses all over both sides of your neck.
As we read in Sacred Scripture, on the first Pentecost, pilgrims from all over had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Weeks.
People traveled to the Holy City seven weeks after Passover both to commemorate the giving of the Ten Commandments fifty days after the Exodus and to celebrate the reaping of the first fruits of the wheat harvest.
On this feast, the Apostles preached the Gospel in all the languages of the world, and thousands believed.
…Right before He went into the Garden of Gethsemane on Holy Thursday night, the Lord Jesus had prayed aloud, and He said:
Father, this is eternal life: to know you, the one true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.
Now, speaking of manners, perhaps it strikes us as a bit odd that the Lord Jesus would refer to Himself in the third person, using His first and last names. But before we accuse Him of pomposity, let us recall that Jesus’ ‘last’ name actually designates the mystery of His identity. Jesus Christ means Jesus the anointed.
Eternal life is to know the only true God and the ambassador upon Whose head the oil of heavenly gladness has been poured.
…Call me obtuse, but I have always found this parable difficult to understand:
No one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.
And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’ (Luke 5:37-39)
The parable seems clear enough:
Christ has inaugurated the New Covenant. The New Covenant requires a complete renovation of religion. The ancient observances of the Old Covenant had to be changed. Those who were accustomed to the old way had a hard time accepting the Christian way of life, even though it is sweeter and better than Judaism.
The fact is that the taste of wine improves with time, up to the point when it reaches its peak. The ancient Palestinians used inside-out animal skins as wine bottles (until the Prohibition of Mohammed deprived them of the joy of the vine).
Skins were used for transporting wine on camel-back. The wine would ferment a second time in the skins, under the hot sun.
So, while it is true that pouring wine into old, dried-out skins would never be wise, neither would it be wise to drink wine that you had just poured into a wineskin. Better to take your journey, then drink it later.
So the “newness” interpretation doesn’t do full justice to the parable.
Today I finally found the perfect explanation. In order fully to grasp the parable, we have to understand it as applying to the Holy Mass:
The wine of Christ’s blood, drawn from the many grapes of the vineyard that He had planted, is extracted in the winepress of the cross. When men receive it with believing hearts, like capacious wineskins, it ferments within them by its own power. (St. Gaudentius of Brescia)
Two months ago, I was in the town of Cana. All the couples in our pilgrim group renewed their wedding vows in the church built on the spot where the Lord turned water into wine.
Then we went on to the Sea of Galilee, where we spent the day. In the evening, we got on the bus to head back to Nazareth, where we were staying. On the way, the perfect thing happened.
We had to pass through Cana on the way back. The region of Galilee is rural countryside. There are not a lot of roads, and the roads are narrow. The only way from the Sea of Galilee to Nazareth is through Cana.
So we drove back into Cana, and, like I said, the perfect thing happened: We got stuck in a traffic jam.
It took us 40 minutes to get through two traffic lights. There were just too many cars and not enough road. Rush hour in Cana of Galilee.
This was the perfect thing to happen. The miracles of Christ are things that really took place, in this very world of ours, where traffic also occurs. The world where Jesus worked miracles, and the world where you and I get stuck in traffic: It is the same world.
In the town where we sat at a red light for half an hour, the God-man went to a wedding of poor people.
The family had done everything within their means to provide for their guests. Now they were confronted with an embarrassing situation.
What Christ did for them is very revealing.
Let us first take note of what He did not do. He did not say, “It’s just as well the wine ran out, because these people have already had more than enough fun.”
No. He did not frown. He smiled. He turned water for ritual purification into an enormous amount of choice table wine. The joy and revelry did not end. The Son of God kept it going.
The fact that our Lord did this is revealing for two reasons. First: It reveals the kind of human heart He has. His Heart is generous. He does not measure His kindness. He does not give with one hand and take with the other. He just loves.
The second thing His action reveals is even more profound. The loving kindness of Christ the man reveals to us the infinite divine love of Christ our God.
We can neither perceive nor imagine the love of God. God’s qualities are altogether beyond the capacities of our little minds. But the human love of Christ give us a glimpse of the ineffable divine love. One of the saints put it like this:
Nothing so much attracts our poor hearts as to contemplate Jesus Christ, true God as well as true man, translating the eternal goodness into human deeds.
In Christ, the unknowable eternal goodness turned water into wine for a poor family in the little town where we sat in traffic. We cannot know God by ourselves, dear brothers and sisters. But Jesus reveals Him. And we see the sweet truth: God is kind.
Now, it is no accident that this revelation took place at a wedding.
The Lord Jesus was not destined to marry on earth. He came to die for the sins of all the children of Adam and Eve.
But He worked His first miracle at a wedding to show us this: God loves marriage and child-bearing. Yes, when we are born, we are born sinners. But it is still a good thing to be born. The human race is meant to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth. Christ came to save everyone ever born.
The miracle at Cana, then, was the beginning of what we call the “Culture of Life.” Christ showed us that day: God wants babies to be born.
This is what the March for Life is about. It is a continuation of the wedding at Cana.
Speaking of births, yesterday would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 81st birthday. Dr. King has a niece named Alveda. She recently wrote the following message to us:
I work in the civil rights movement of our century — the right of every one of every race to live.
I am asking you to join me. Let me tell you why. Abortion and racism are evil twins, born of the same lie…
Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human…So it is with abortion.
Racism oppresses its victims, but also binds the oppressors, who sear their consciences with more and more lies until they become prisoners of those lies. They cannot face the truth of human equality because it reveals the horror of the injustices they commit…So it is with abortion.
Racism is a way to gain economic advantage at the expense of others. Slavery and plantations may be gone, but racism still allows us to regard those who may keep us from financial gain as less than equals. So it is with abortion.
Listen: Dr. King was killed before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal on January 22, 1973. But you know that if he were still alive, he would be marching on Friday.
If any of us think that the pro-life cause is not our problem, not our fight to fight, we need to think again.
Dr. King would be yelling at us right now. He yelled a lot louder in the pulpit than I ever do.
He would yell, “Get yourself up! Stand up for what you know is right! Every little baby in the womb—every black one, every white, yellow, or red one—every last one has the right to be born!”
It has been something of a slog through airports, bus parking lots, and hilly Umbrian streets…but we pilgrims have made it to the town of St. Francis.
Upon arrival in Assisi, we went straight to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels. This massive sixteenth-century church houses the Portiuncula, the small chapel where St. Francis and his first followers prayed. This is also the site where St. Clare became the Bride of Christ, as our guide Elizabeth pointed out. And it is the place where the Troubadour of Christ breathed his last.
For followers and friends of St. Francis, this is the holiest of sites. It was not just sleep deprivation that made us emotional as we celebrated Holy Mass in the chapel of St. Clare. The Lord has drawn us here to meet Him, to renew ourselves in contemplation of the mystery of holiness.
Tomorrow we will visit both St. Francis and St. Clare. The Basilica where we were earlier today is in the lower town of Assisi, at the bottom of the hill. It was open country and woods at the time of St. Francis and St. Clare.
The churches of the saints of Assisi are in the thousand-year-old town at the top of the hill. We came up the hill by bus after Mass, just in time for supper.
Our accommodations are right between the churches of St. Francis and St. Clare, in the middle of the old town. The hotel dining room afforded us a splendid dinner this evening, complete with bottles of delicious Umbrian wine. We are now well-fed and hope to be well-rested soon.
We thank the gracious Providence of God for getting us here safely. And we thank Him, and all the wonderful geeks of the world, for making it possible to share this with you. The Geeks are alright!