As we mentioned on the Epiphany, the Church prolongs that celebration over three separate days in order to individually commemorate each of the events of our Lord's manifestation to the world. Epiphany means just that -- "manifestation." Having already taken note of the Three Wise Men and the Baptism of our Lord, we come to the third of these events in our Lord's first miracle, the changing of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana.
Just in case anybody missed it, you should all know that this first miracle was worked at the insistence of our Blessed Mother, when she noticed the embarrassment of the bridal couple. That should tell us something about how to get things done as far as your prayers are concerned. You need to take them to the right place!
It also says something -- very subtilely -- about a major difference between men and women. Our Lord seems not to have any intention of starting His public ministry on this occasion. For, like most men, he understands the need for long range planning. "Today just wouldn't be a good day to get started with this enterprise . . . perhaps in a week or two we will really get serious about this thing . . . take the time to think it over properly . . . get it organized." Perhaps it is a good thing for our salvation that there was a woman in His life -- His Blessed Mother -- to prompt Him to get moving, and do the things that needed to be done in the short term. Men and women often compliment each other in that way.
Many theologians suggest that it was on this occasion in Cana that our Lord elevated the state of Marriage to that of a Sacrament. Our Lord, of course, recognized this complimentary nature of man and woman, and determined that it was a holy thing which could be made to serve the salvation of souls and the sanctification of society. He had, after all, fashioned man and woman for each other in the garden of Eden.
And certainly our Lord wanted to take this opportunity to silence those who held that material things were evil. He wanted to make sure that His disciples understood that the pleasures of marriage, taken in their right context, are positively holy. They are, quite literally, the building blocks of Christian society. (And a little wine isn't such a bad thing either -- helps us while we do that "long range planning".)
Unfortunately, over the centuries, there have been altogether too many who have ignored our Lord's wisdom about the sanctity of marriage. We have them, even in our day. They have misinterpreted St. Paul's writings, trying to make him appear to say that marriage is just a cover of respectability, thrown over the actions of morally weak people. That is very far from what St. Paul was trying to say.
Both our Lord and St. Paul do tell us, however, that marriage is not for everyone. Some people don't have the temperament to do things together as a couple, or the temperament to deal with babies and children. Many have trouble putting up with the defects of others, or admitting their own. Some don't have the fortitude to make a lasting relationship; "till death do us part." Others are too materialistic, and would sinfully make use of the pleasures of marriage, while excluding the possibility of having children. Some are irresponsible, and unsuited to a settled family life -- they don't like the idea of going to work day in and day out, or raising the children for 17 or 18 years each. Many people in our society are not used to the idea of denying their immediate pleasures for the sake of their future, or their children's' future.
And then too, some people will find an outlet for greater holiness in the single state -- having less distraction, and more time to devote to their relationship with God. St. Paul writes a great deal about this.
Tomorrow will be January 19th, the feast of Sts. Marius and Martha, and their Sons -- a married couple -- a family -- who went collectively to their deaths during the Roman persecutions, rather than to deny their Faith.
Hopefully that will never be asked of any of us -- but also, hopefully, we will have the strength of character that would allow us to do so if we had to.
That's the kind of character we need if we are to be good Catholics -- particularly if we are to live as good Catholics in the married state. It is a difficult vocation; and not one to be taken lightly, or entered into foolishly.
But those of you who do take up this holy and heroic vocation have reason rejoice on the occasion of this Wedding Feast of Cana. Not only has our Lord raised your vocation to the level of a Sacrament -- but, just as she saw the need of the couple in Cana, and asked our Lord to help them, you also have a promise that our Blessed Lady will secure the graces which you need for a holy and a fruitful marriage.