Fr. George Smiga
January 20, 2013
John 2: 1-11
There is an arc to human life. It begins with our birth and ends with our death. In every period of that arc there are blessings and struggles. But the gifts and challenges of one period differ from that of the next. The first couple decades of life are a time of beginnings. It is then that we discover who we are, what we will do, who we will love. Although this period, like every period, has its shortfalls and disappointments, the beginning period of life is largely characterized by the excitement of the new, the joy of discovery, and limitless potential that gives rise to hope.
The middle period of our life, if we are fortunate, is a time of success and productivity. It is in that period that we use our talents and our resources to impact the life of others and possibly even our world. This is the period when we can enjoy the results of our labor and the circle of family and friends that surrounds us.
The last decades of life are a time of conclusions and farewells. If we are fortunate, we are surrounded by even more family and friends who support and respect us. We have the wisdom of decades of experience and, because of lessening work responsibility, we have more time to ourselves for the enjoyment of life. Yet in these decades of life there are significant challenges. We must become accustomed to letting go of people who are dear to us through death. Our health fails. Our energy lessens. So even though there are consistent blessings, in the arc of life these last decades place us in a downward direction. When this realization is compounded by our culture which revels in the value of youth and beauty, those in the latter years of life can begin to feel excluded and perhaps forgotten. This is why today’s Gospel is so important.
Today we hear the story of Jesus’ first miracle at Cana in Galilee. The message of this miracle runs contrary to the grain. If we see the wedding celebration as a metaphor for our life, this story tells us that the good wine is served at the end. It is not what we expect, and the story does not hold back from asserting it. The headwaiter tells the bridegroom, “Everyone serves the good wine first, but you have saved the good wine until last.”
Now the point of this miracle is not to say that being old is better than being young or that any one period of life is better than the other. But by pulling against the grain this miracle reminds us that in every period of our lives God is committed to us and intends to bless us. Our God is not only the God of the young, the hopeful, and the strong. Our God is also the God of the elderly and the wise and the frail. Because God is committed to us at every time and place, we can expect God to bless us even in our advancing years. This miracle is not asking us to pretend that it is always wonderful being old. When we’re dealing with arthritis, when we are ready for bed at 9:30, when we have to let go of companions with whom we have shared a lifetime, who would not wish to turn back the clock?
But the point is this: at every age and at every time of our life we should get up in the morning and say to ourselves in faith, “God loves me and God will bless me today.” What this miracle story teaches is that we should not stop saying that or believing that as we advance in years. God is with us always. The danger of aging is that we might start to believe that the Gospel no longer applies to us. It applies to us then more than ever. Even as the arc of life says that we are on the decline, God’s commitment to us is as high as ever. Even though our hearing fails, God is still speaking. If we commit ourselves to listen, we can find blessings in unexpected places. We can discover that the wine God gives us in the last decades of life is no substandard vintage. The wine that God gives us then is—as always—the best wine that God has to offer.