No banquet in Scripture would be complete without wine. More than a drink, it is a symbol of hospitality and festive joy, the fruit of the vine and work of human hands, which gladdens the heart (cf Psalm 104:15).
Imagine, then, running out of wine during a wedding feast! If Jesus had not intervened and supplied wine when it ran short, what would the newlyweds at Cana (John 2:1-11) have done? As I look back on the ten years of marriage my husband and I celebrate today, this image of Jesus coming to the aid of the bride and groom with the gift of good wine seems especially fitting.
Overjoyed at finally getting to be together after two years of long-distance dating, our first year of marriage was exciting and fun, filled with adventure and plenty of questions about what the next year and beyond might bring. In our second year of marriage, my husband began his studies for a doctoral degree, we moved across the country back to our college town, and we bought our first home.
The wine of gladness was plentiful in our first years of marriage.
In the years that followed, we experienced many other joys, but not without some very real challenges. We came to know the heartache of infertility, the joys and hardships of parenthood, the stress of financial uncertainty, yet another cross-country move, the sorrow of pregnancy loss, the isolation and anxiety of the pandemic, and the strain of evolving job responsibilities.
In many moments of difficulty, I wondered about our supply of wine. Was it enough?
If our marriage depended solely on my abilities and choices, surely the wine would have run out long ago. Thankfully, not only do I have an incredible and selfless husband, but Christian marriage “is supported by the continuing presence of Christ in the life of the spouses as he pours into their hearts the gift of love through the Holy Spirit” (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, p. 286). Through all the hardships, Christ has always poured out the grace we needed. When I wondered how we would have the fortitude to endure difficulties, the wisdom to discern a job opportunity, the patience to deal with interrupted sleep, endless laundry, potty training and more, we have had the unfailing support of family and friends and prayer and the sacraments to sustain us. The wine of grace flowed in unexpected moments of forgiveness, kindness, and understanding amid disagreements or miscommunications. I don’t know where it came from sometimes, but it certainly didn’t come from me!
When we were first married, I couldn’t have anticipated all that would await us. We came together out of a love and attraction that has been a great gift. We remain together out of a love made firm in Christ. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults describes how a couple is “challenged to unite their personal love with Christ’s love. Their human love will survive more effectively the cultural challenges they face, as well as the psychological and economic ones, when it is merged with the powerful love of Christ, who wants them to succeed and whose divine grace is ever at their service” (p. 286).
As beautiful and wonderful as they are, the excitement and exhilaration of newly wedded bliss is not enough for a lifetime. The choice to love “for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health” presents itself time and time again, and many times, it is far from easy.
With God’s overflowing and abundant grace, the enduring love of marriage is made possible. Without it, the moment a difficulty arises, the wine runs short. Yet, just as Jesus provided the couple at Cana with far superior wine in greater quantities than they could have possibly needed, God has blessed my husband and me in ways that exceed my wildest imaginings. Ten years in, we share a richer, deeper, and wider life in common than when we were first married. I am filled with gratitude for the good wine of joy and fruitfulness we now savor. Though I don’t know what the next ten years will hold, I pray the wine of God’s grace will continue to flow freely!