Back in 1835 my great grandfather built a farm house in a place called Barnsville, New Brunswick. The farm house is still there and I have a first cousin living in it. As kids our great summer adventure was to spend a week at the farm helping my uncle hay – I know we weren’t much help but he was gracious about it.
One of the things I remember about the farm, other than the outhouse and the straw mattresses, was a big rain barrel at the kitchen door. This was the water used for washing dishes or clothes. A skunk has fallen in the well that was near the house and ruined its water. There was a spring a good ways away and it was a chore to get the spring water to the house. The rule of the house was the spring water was only used for making tea or drinking. It was special.
The water used in today’s gospel would be like the rain barrel water – run off water, not fresh, water used for washing hands and feet of visitors. Not first choice water, that was too precious for ordinary ablutions. It was this run off water Jesus used in today’s gospel – we could call it the least of the least but through His words of love and life He transformed it into choice wine in order that the wedding celebration of His two friends could continue. Scripture tells us God gave us wine to gladden our hearts and certainly the hearts of this young couple must have been gladdened by this wonderful gift since their own wine had run out.
The second reading is about how the Christian community is blessed with a variety of gifts. Every parish experiences this reality of the Christians of Corinth. Every parish is blessed with men and women gifted with the ability to lead, to plan, to teach, to be involved in issues of social justice or outreach into the neighborhood or to help build a sense of community in a parish. Every parish is blessed with people who have the ability to proclaim the scriptures with intelligence and meaning, people gifted with the ability to make people feel welcome, people with good voices to form choirs, people who are at ease in visiting the sick and shut-ins.
Everyone person here is blessed in one way or another with gifts, talents that are theirs alone but gifts given for the common good, gifts meant to be shared. But how often do we really appreciate those gifts, enjoy those gifts, and share those gifts. How often do we dismiss, devalue these gifts by thinking of them as something like the water in the rain barrel, not worth all that much, not worth sharing with others. How often do we see our lives as bland, without excitement, without zest? Just rain barrel water, just rain barrel lives. Yet today’s gospel shows us how Jesus takes what we consider to be so bland, so boring, so ordinary – so, ‘just there’, and transforms it into choice wine – something rich and exhilarating, something to be shared and enjoyed by ourselves and others.
Maybe there are times when we look at our lives, our jobs, our family life, our relationships and we say, I have no wine, no zest, no enthusiasm, my job is a grind, my family life is dull, and really what have I done with my life? These are all downers; these speak of left over rain water stagnating in a barrel. These thoughts and feelings speak of how we’ve lost our awareness of how our lives have been blessed with gifts that are ours alone. These thoughts say, ‘I have no wine’. We all go through such times, such downers. That’s why we start each Mass trying to be mindful of how are lives are blessed and gifted.
Maybe a gospel like today’s can help us in our down times when we really feel not all that good about ourselves, our lives, our jobs. Maybe we can find the trust to take these very real feelings to Christ and honestly say, “I have no wine”. Maybe we can trust that Christ will grace us as He graced His newly married friends by taking our feelings of being inadequate and grace us with a deeper appreciation of how our lives have been blessed – blessed with health and love and friends and faith and abilities uniquely our own. Maybe we can appreciate in new way how lucky we are. In that sense of appreciation may we take the gifts with which we have been blessed and share those gifts with others.