Published October 25, 2007
On Saturday, Oct. 6, couples from around the Archdiocese of Atlanta gathered with their families for a special jubilee Mass at St. Brigid Church. The Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, honored those couples marking 50 and 60 years of marriage this year. Over 100 couples were honored with Mass, corsages and champagne, and approximately 700 people attended the liturgy to celebrate together the importance of the sacrament of marriage.
The event, sponsored by the archdiocesan Family Life Office and first held in 2006 as part of the jubilee year for the archdiocese, is an annual event.
Following is the text of Archbishop Gregory’s homily for the jubilee Mass.
For any of you fortunate enough ever to have made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, you probably made a visit to the village of Cana during that trip. I am convinced that if it had not been for this particular Gospel story, Cana would be simply just another small settlement in that part of the world that still lives with too much hatred and violence in the long disputed land that Christians, Jews and Muslims consider sacred. But because of John’s meticulous description of a wedding feast that took place in Cana, it continues to hold special significance for Christians the world over.
Many newlywed couples have visited Cana of Galilee hoping to have some of the blessings that are described so carefully in John’s Gospel to descend upon their young marriages. Tourists even today can purchase bottles of a local wine that is produced around the village of Cana, but after having sampled that marketed vintage, I can assure you that the contemporary wine-makers must be now once again be using the descendants of the same grapes that produced the inferior vintage that ran out before Christ worked His miracle over water.
There are so many details that John attends to in this Gospel story, that Cana is forever a place identified with wedding celebrations. There are even a few wedding chapels in modern day Cana where couples can be married—so powerful is the spirit of this little village now identified with matrimony.
Yet in spite of all of the details that John records in telling this tale of a wedding celebration, there is one glaring oversight that he fails to chronicle. We do not know the name of the young couple whose wedding celebration Jesus and His Mother and disciples graced. We know the number and the capacity of the vessels that would hold the precious and miraculous superior wine that Christ gave as a wedding gift to the young couple. We know that Mary instigated the miracle. We even know some of the words that people spoke at the key moments of this wondrous event, but we do not know anything about the young couple, except that Jesus rescued their wedding festival from embarrassment and gave them a gift far more precious than they might have anticipated.
Could it be that this oversight is not really an omission at all? Is it not possible that the story of Cana is the story of every couple who dares to invite Christ and His Mother to their wedding? Whenever Christ is a part of the lives of married couples, whenever the Mother of Christ is present in their home, there are miracles of all sorts that inevitably take place.
Christ and His Mother bring joy and laughter to homes; they offer a way for the party of life to continue—even when the couples run out of their own meager resources. And the gifts that Christ offers are always far superior to anything that the young couple might have had before.
Today, we rejoice with couples from throughout our archdiocese who would all testify, given the opportunity, that they have been graced by Christ and His Mother in ways that they might never have anticipated. For 60 or 50 years, they have been provided with a vintage of joy far finer than they might have expected. Through the years, they have been given the courage and the generosity of heart to forgive, to admit mistakes, to endure sorrows and disappointments, to embrace challenges that neither of them might have thought possible when they stood as a young, bright-eyed and clueless bride and groom more than half a century ago!
In 1947 or 1957, they began a journey that has taken each of them through twists and turns of fate that they could not have imagined during those first moments in their married lives. And today, they rejoice with their children and grandchildren that Christ has remained in their homes and hearts turning water into wine, sorrow into hope, fear into confidence, anger into mercy, youth into wisdom in ways that would have escaped them on their wedding days now five or six decades ago.
In the name of the Church, I thank them for the extraordinary witness of Faith that they have provided—not just for their own children, family and friends, but for the entire Church that today so desperately needs examples of hope, commitment and joy from married couples to encourage all of us to see in their lives the presence of Christ and the fidelity that He offers to the Church which is His own bride.
As the Shepherd of this local Church, I congratulate all of our couples at this Mass that brings so many wonderful people together in praise and gratitude for all that God has done in their lives. Indeed, our jubilee couples have finally provided names and faces for a couple who celebrated their marriage in Cana of Galilee long ago but who have provided hope and joy for all the Church in our own time.