Weddings are one of several memorable events that become indelibly stamped in our memory banks. Years later, we can still recall the kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and smells of a great wedding. We still feel the couples’ joy as we watched them walk the aisle toward their beloveds. I recall the beautiful multi-colored ballerina-like gowns of bridesmaids from one of my favorite aunt & uncle’s wedding of 60 plus years ago. My mother used to think it was impossible for me to remember their wedding given the fact that I was barely 3 years old; however, my detailed descriptions of the dresses, etc., made it impossible for her to keep insisting that my memories were impossible.
What makes for a perfect wedding? Is it the weather, the venue, the wine, food, and candy or the people? Or is it all of the above — plus more? For sure, the wedding party always becomes the show stopper for anyone/everyone who catches sight of them. These bystanders are silently spellbound by the appearance of a wedding party in hopes of catching sight of the bride and groom. These bystanders include neighbors, strangers out and about for the day, and friends and relatives arriving for the wedding. Always, we are delighted by the sight of the wedding party but especially by adorable, young flower girls and ring bearers and the couple to be wed. The bystanders’ watch is only broken when the wedding party disappears from their sight. But even after that, some continue to linger as if in silent prayer for the young couple about to be married. Memories may be flooding their silent watch — their own or that or other marriages they witnessed.
Todays’ weddings are short and sweet compared to weddings from the biblical era. Even so they leave us with strong emotional connections and feelings. Imagine the planning that went into weddings from ages past! Imagine the amount of food and wine that was consumed. Imagine the embarrassment when/if the wedding planner lacked prudence and generosity. Is that why Mary told Jesus “They have no more wine?” But Jesus’ reply was strange — or so it seemed. Why would he have replied: “Woman, why does this concern us? My hour has not yet come.” [John 2:3]
Hold that thought. Why did Mary interject Jesus into the fray? Why did Jesus refer to her as Woman? While theologians have surely developed great answers for these questions it should still cause us to think about them from our private vantage point. I get the potential for embarrassment caused by them running out of wine. Not that we ran out of wine at our daughter’s recent wedding, but we did run out of candy and within the first hour of the wedding reception. We had filled 12 glass candy jars with 5 pounds of candy each. It seemed that 60 pounds of candy would surely be enough for about 150 guests — but it wasn’t. But that wasn’t the only glitch in our planning. Soon after noticing that issue, our parish priest — with one of our grandsons in tow — asked me why beer and wine were free while pop wasn’t. After all, Andrew (one of our grandsons) wanted a glass of pop but would have to pay for it and of course this 10 year old wasn’t carrying money. It seemed to offend both him and our pastor that they were asked to pay for soda when everyone else was getting a beer for free. This minor glitch was fixed shortly thereafter — but not without feeling some embarrassment. But there was nothing we could do about the candy dilemma. Our parish priest’s motive was surely as pure as Mary’s earlier request of Jesus; but, what was she trying to teach us?
Mary was surely hoping to minimize the embarrassment of the bride and groom’s parents; but, what else? After all, we all know that Mary was a very contemplative woman (keeping all these things in her heart) and ready and willing to move to God’s promptings. What was Mary doing for us across the ages of time?
I think she was defining authentic JOY for all of us! I don’t think we necessarily associate authentic joy or love with a wedding today. Mary (according to Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta ) was teaching us that authentic JOY means that we first must turn and follow Jesus if we intend to seek and find authentic joy in life, in marriage, or in parenthood, Hence the letter J at the beginning of the word joy. Secondly, we are called to put Others first before self — our spouse, children, family & close friends, work others in that order. Hence the letter O is second. Lastly, we are to put our own interests last. Hence the letter Y comes after the letters J and O. Jesus first, Others next, followed by Yourself. That is how to claim joy for ourselves — here, now and eternally. That may be the message Mary was hoping to impart when she turned to Jesus for his help at this awkward time.
Think about authentic JOY the next time you seem a bride float down the aisle; observe the bride and groom’s first kiss; watch their first dance; and the many other firsts that will occur in their lives — and your own. That’s what a perfect wedding is all about — attending to and finding authentic JOY!
The perfect wedding is not created by the drinking of fine wine, consuming 60 pounds of candy, observing the handsome groom and the beautiful bride. No, it's found in realizing what authentic JOY is really all about. Now it's time to go get it for yourself!