The Third Sunday after Epiphany
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The Collect and Readings can be found here:
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Words from the book of Revelation: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb’.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Can you remember the best wine you’ve ever tasted? Think back. Was it red or white? Was it dry or sweet? Was it light, like a Pinot Noir or heavy like a Malbec? Was it European or new world?
I distinctly remember the best wine I’ve ever tasted. It was red. It was medium bodied, it was European, the grapes from the Puglia region in the south of Italy. It was smooth not tannic, it was dry, but too too dry, it wasn’t sweet but it wasn’t bitter. It was a bottle of Pri Netro Rosso and frankly I can’t wait to try it again!
I tried this wine with a group of friends when on holiday in Rome two years ago. The wine was so good I took a picture of the bottle and I’ve been trying to get it in the UK ever since – no luck.
That said, the three of us, all priests, did not have high hopes when we arrived at the little bar it was served at; I did not expect to be taste such a wonderful wine. This little place, lodged in the bustling streets by the Piazza Navona, had been recommended by some other friends; it’s a place where all the seminarians visit for a drink. So we duly went and discovered a ramshackle, tiny sports bar, with a jolly American owner.
The place had old wooden chairs, the tables, if they can be called that, were old wine barrels and too be honest it was rather grim inside. It was a far cry from what we had all expected! So, we ordered a bottle of wine and were told that he’d run out of that particular vintage.
The owner duly returned and asked if we’d like to try this bottle in his hand… We agreed, and he provided in abundance. We were not disappointed; the best wine had indeed been saved until last: it was a wine that just kept giving.
The gospel we have just heard recalls a similar situation. Jesus reveals the best wine last, and displays his glory. The wine that he gives, as the scriptures recall, is ‘good’. Why is it good?
The gospel tells us that the wine they had been drinking ‘gave out’ or failed.
In contrast, the wine which Jesus then provides does not fail. It is lavished upon them in abundance, the equivalent of 820 large bottles of water.
What does this mean?
It means that Jesus, is the new wine, the wine that he gives does not fail, it does not leave people disappointed, it does not run out, in short, it is life giving.
The steward of the wedding is clearly impressed; the wine served last is of good quality, far better than the inferior wine that had been given out.
In the scriptures, wine symbolises life; remember in Psalm 23 we hear, ‘my cup shall be full’, that is what God provides and in our second reading from the book of Revelation we hear of the ‘marriage feast of the Lamb’ – the banquet of heaven, it’s a banquet that we too will experience.
But for now, we have another banquet, the banquet we have come to partake in this morning: the Mass, the marriage feast here on earth. The marriage between us and God – the wine being the sign and symbol of his love outpoured his life in all its fullness. The Mass gives us the opportunity to experience something of the wine of heaven, like the wedding at Cana, it is given in abundance.
The old wines of life we have tried that do not satisfy are surpassed by the new wine given to us in this feast by Jesus Christ himself. He gives us the wine that does not ‘fail’, it does not ‘give out’ but it keeps on giving, and tasting this wine is not a one off, but is accessible always.
Today, Jesus reveals himself as the new Melchizedek, the figure we heard of in our first reading. He is one who is both a priest offering himself as the sacrifice, and a King, the King of glory, and like Melchizedek, Jesus offers us bread and wine.
Today, by his actions, Jesus reveals himself not just as a man – but as the man who is fully God, the Messiah who reveals himself and makes his glory known.
He allows us to share in his glory through this eucharistic feast, though his body broken and blood outpoured. He is the new wine, of the new and everlasting covenant. He is the wine that never runs out. He is the wine that surpasses all that you have taste so far. He is the wine that brings joy and life. He is the wine that keeps on giving. He is the wine that bestows on us blessing.
To go back to the question with which I began: can you remember the best wine you’ve ever tasted?
For me it was the Pri Ne Tro Rosso, for you it could be a fine Merlot or a pleasant Cote de Rhone.
But let us remember, that they are nothing compared to the wine that Christ gives us in his own blood, for that wine, is the purest, finest, richest vintage – and by it we receive both his grace and his glory.
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