Drinking the Wine – of Marriage

A homily by Fr. Jay Kythe for Shania & Derek's wedding

“We’re both better people with each other!” Derek and Shania said. The funny part of it was that they both said it together, unprompted, at the same time! And then Shania added, “Especially me.”

Shania and Derek both know what they want. They want three things.

First, they want to stay close to the Lord. They want to be holy. They want to be saints.

Second, they know that God gave them each other in order for this to happen. They noticed that in the Book of Genesis, God created man for woman and woman for man. It’s beautiful to think that even before they were born, God created Derek for Shania and Shania for Derek and placed their souls into bodies. He knew that today, in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Seventeen, on the twentieth day of May, in Beloit, Kansas, Derek and Shania would be getting married. It was part of His plan. There is the fruit of joy when we figure out and follow God’s plan, whether that is marriage or another vocation. Here, Derek and Shania both clearly feel that joy. I’m sure Derek felt it when he saw Shania come down the aisle, in a way similar to that man in Genesis, seeing the woman for the first time. “This, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!” What joy he felt! 

Shania and Derek both know what they want. They want to be saints and they know that they need each other in order for this to happen. God has planned it. Third, they want what Scriptures say about marriage, that the two shall become one. They want to expose their hearts to each other. They want to be open to each other, without fear. They want to be “naked without shame.” They want each to hold each other’s heart in a nurturing way. 

My friends, this is a tremendous challenge! Derek and Shania and I have been discussing this, in our one-on-one’s and as a group, that this is a very difficult task. And I see how much they want it. They are incomplete without each other. I have to apologize—I simply cannot express this challenge in words very easily. For that is how it should be: we are discussing a mystery. If I could explain it, I would explain away the mystery. 

St. Paul called it a great mystery. St. John Paul II, in his Theology of the Body, called it a sacramentum magnum—a great sacrament, which has overtones of mystery. “This is a great mystery,” says St. Paul, “but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.”

In order to express this mystery, Derek and Shania picked the reading from Ephesians 5. Many people are put off by this reading. This reading from Ephesians is often misunderstood. With words like subordinate, and the older translation, submissive, we are put off in our modern, independent culture. But to be submissive means to submit yourself to something greater, and to be subordinate means to place yourself in the context of an order given by someone greater. St. Paul is making an analogy: husbands are to wives as Christ is to the Church. Christ unites Himself to the Church as the head to the body. Husbands and wives are supposed to be one, united, mutually giving, loving, and—like Christ—sacrificing. Husbands, love your wives as your own bodies. By not loving your spouse, you don’t love yourself either. 

This is the great challenge of marriage. By comparison, I, as a priest and a monk, took the easier route! All of you who are single, take a collective sigh of relief. All of you who are married, gasp! If we really took this seriously, we would wonder, who could do it? And yet, in my 15 years of priestly life, after about 100 weddings and marriage preparation for many couples, I have met couples who have done this. They are few, and I suspect most couples don’t live this way of mutual self-giving love. The couples that were able to do it, well, what’s their secret? 

The answer in the Gospel is clearly and obviously: wine—lots and lots of wine!

Jesus made 120 to 180 gallons of wine! And that was after people had drunk plenty of wine and had run out! Wine here represents the goodness and happiness in marriage. What happens when that runs out? I think it has for a lot of marriages. Oh, people still remain married, and they can act like things are okay, but they aren’t really. “Really, stand before my spouse, exposed, showing him or her my deepest darkest fears and anxieties? What about my sins? What about my dreams? Won’t he or she call me childish, silly, insecure, foolish, immature, …” the list of self-directed epithets go on and on. And the wine is running out.

And Mary came up to the Savior of the world and pointed out, simply, “They have no wine.” (repeated three times, pointing at people). And He said, finally, “My hour has come,” and He mounted the wood of the Cross. Blood spilled on the altar of the Cross for the salvation of the world. His heart was pierced open by a soldier’s lance, and out flowed blood and water: baptism and Eucharist, and the Church, His Bride, was born. He tore open His heart for His Bride. “As the Church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.” 

Derek, Shania wants to follow you, only if you are following Christ. Remember what Christ did for His Church—that is why you shall exchange your vows on a crucifix—He exposed Himself to His Bride, opened His heart without fear to her. That is what you must always strive to do. And you know Shania better than anyone; she will take your heart and hold it gently, without shame. 

And Shania, you know Derek better than anyone. He takes his responsibilities very seriously. He will guard and protect you and your family. This shall clearly be a household where Derek shall be the head of the home, and Shania shall be the heart of the home, like Christ and His Church, bringing both to heaven. 

And our Blessed Mother will rejoice, for the two of you shall drink “wine” at this altar, wine that has been transformed into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ our Savior, together. 

God has planned for this day for an eternity. Mother Mary is protecting it with her mantle of protection. And the Church here is praying for your success as you enter into this sacramentum magnum. Are you ready?