"In the Family, No One Is Rejected" – Seeking the "Best Wine" For the Masses, Pope Prays For Synod "Miracle"
That is, one besides the rapturous Guayaquil welcome.
At the first of five open-air Masses (fullvid) scheduled over the eight-day trek – which'll likewise wend through the continent's "peripheries" of Bolivia and Paraguay before wrapping up on Sunday – Francis chose the family as his focus in the Pacific coast city, with both the challenges the "domestic church" faces on the ground and October's climactic Synod on the church's pastoral response to them explicitly in his sights in a potent, impassioned homily. (Speaking of the latter backdrop, meanwhile, a full English translation of the Synod's all-important "baseline" text was quietly released last week.
For the full context and impact of Francis' words today to be understood, it is necessary to recall the Pope's "blockbuster" preach at the closing of February's Consistory, when – at their last en masse gathering before the Synod – he urged the entire College of Cardinals to be mindful of how "compassion leads Jesus to concrete action," seen in the way the Lord "reinstates the marginalized!" As today's preach again overflowed with Papa Bergoglio's ever-intense Marian piety, the Guayaquil call comes as a direct echo of the earlier text, albeit this one attuned to the broad body of the faithful instead of senior prelates.
In the context of a votive Mass of the Holy Family, the Gospel taken from the John 2 account of Jesus' first miracle – his transformation of water to wine in the wedding at Cana – below is the Pope's fulltext, here in its Vatican translation:
The Gospel passage which we have just heard is the first momentous sign in the Gospel according to John. Mary’s maternal concern is seen in her plea to Jesus: “They have no wine”, and Jesus’ reference to “his hour” will be more fully understood later, in the story of his Passion.-30-
This is good, because it allows us to see Jesus’ eagerness to teach, to accompany, to heal and to give joy, thanks to the words of his Mother: “They have no wine”.
The wedding at Cana is repeated in every generation, in every family, in every one of us and our efforts to let our hearts find rest in strong, fruitful and joyful love. Let us make room for Mary, “the Mother” as the evangelist calls her. Let us journey with her to Cana.
Mary is attentive in the course of this wedding feast, she is concerned for the needs of the newlyweds. She is not closed in on herself, worried only about her little world. Her love makes her “outgoing” towards others. So she notices that the wine has run out. Wine is a sign of happiness, love and plenty. How many of our adulescents and young people sense that these are no longer found in their homes? How many women, sad and lonely, wonder when love left, when it slipped away from their lives? How many elderly people feel left out of family celebrations, cast aside and longing each day for a little love? This lack of “wine” can also be due to unemployment, illness and difficult situations which our families may experience. Mary is not a “demanding” mother, a mother-in-law who revels in our lack of experience, our mistakes and the things we forget to do. Mary is a Mother! She is there, attentive and concerned.
But Mary approaches Jesus with confidence, Mary prays. She does not go to the steward, she immediately tells her Son of the newlyweds’ problem. The response she receives seems disheartening: “What does it have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come” (v. 4). But she nonetheless places the problem in God’s hands. Her concern to meet the needs of others hastens Jesus’ hour. Mary was a part of that hour, from the cradle to the cross. She was able “to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love” (Evangelii Gaudium, 286). She accepted us as her sons and daughters when the sword pierced her heart. She teaches us to put our families in God’s hands, to pray, to kindle the hope which shows us that our concerns are also God’s concerns.
Praying always lifts us out of our worries and concerns. It makes us rise above everything that hurts, upsets or disappoints us, and it puts us in the place of others, in their shoes. The family is a school where prayer also reminds us that we are not isolated individuals; we are one and we have a neighbour close at hand: he or she is living under the same roof, is a part of our life, and is in need.
Mary finally acts. Her words, “Do whatever he tells you” (v. 5), addressed to the attendants, are also an invitation to us to open our hearts to Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served. Service is the sign of true love. We learn this especially in the family, where we become servants out of love for one another. In the heart of the family, no one is rejected. “In the family we learn how to ask without demanding, to say ‘thank you’ as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings” (Laudato Si’, 213). The family is the nearest hospital, the first school for the young, the best home for the elderly. The family constitutes the best “social capital”. It cannot be replaced by other institutions. It needs to be helped and strengthened, lest we lose our proper sense of the services which society as a whole provides. Those services are not a type of alms, but rather a genuine “social debt” with respect to the institution of the family, which contributes so greatly to the common good.
The family is also a small Church, a “domestic Church” which, along with life, also mediates God’s tenderness and mercy. In the family, we imbibe faith with our mother’s milk. When we experience the love of our parents, we feel the closeness of God’s love.
In the family, miracles are performed with what little we have, with what we are, with what is at hand… many times, it is not ideal, it is not what we dreamt of, nor what “should have been”. The new wine of the wedding feast of Cana came from the water jars, the jars used for ablutions, we might even say from the place where everyone had left their sins… “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). In our own families and in the greater family to which we all belong, nothing is thrown away, nothing is useless. Shortly before the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Church will celebrate the Ordinary Synod devoted to the family, deepen her spiritual discernment and consider concrete solutions to the many difficult and significant challenges facing families in our time. I ask you to pray fervently for this intention, so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, scandalous or threatening, and turn it – by making it part of his “hour” – into a miracle.
It all began because “they had no wine”. It could all be done because a woman – the Virgin Mary – was attentive, left her concerns in God’s hands and acted sensibly and courageously. But there was more to come: everyone went on to enjoy the finest of wines. And this is the good news: the finest wines are yet to be tasted; for families, the richest, deepest and most beautiful things are yet to come. The time is coming when we will taste love daily, when our children will come to appreciate the home we share, and our elderly will be present each day in the joys of life. The finest of wines will come for every person who stakes everything on love. And it will come in spite of all the variables and statistics which say otherwise; the best wine is yet to come for those who today feel hopelessly lost. Say it until you are convinced of it: the best wine is yet to come. Whisper it to the hopeless and the loveless. God always seek out the peripheries, those who have run out of wine, those who drink only of discouragement. Jesus feels their weakness, in order to pour out the best wines for those who, for whatever reason, feel that all their jars have been broken.
As Mary bids us, let us “do what he tells us” and be thankful that in this, our time and our hour, the new wine, the finest wine, will make us recover the joy of being a family. Que así sea.