The Wine Homily (2nd Sun Ord. Time C, Jan 18, 2004)

Homily — 2nd Sunday OT C Jan. 18, 2004

cabernet sauvignon grapes

The previous parish I was in was predominantly Italian. And many Italian men have a hobby of making their own wine.

I first encountered this when, while visiting the house of a man named Lou, he asked me to go down into his basement to “bless his wine.” In the basement was one 8-gallon glass jug of fermenting wine with a hose on top of it for a siphon, and a case of empty bottles.

Several months later, I was visiting the home of another parishioner named Gino, who also asked me to bless the wine he was making. Envisioning a small setup similar to that of Lou’s, I was shocked when I went into the basement, the whole cellar was full of glass jugs, full bottles, and even 3 oak barrels! I asked him “Is this all legal?” He told me that you can legally make up to 200 gallons for personal use.

Our Lord in today’s Gospel of the Wedding at Cana turns about 180 gallons of water into fine wine. My friend Gino, and our friend Jesus, both have the same thing in common — they both have a great passion for making wine.

My friend Gino makes his living as a chemist, but if he could afford to I’m sure he’d be a full time wine maker. Jesus the Son of God, who made his living as a carpenter, chose wine out of all other drinks to be consecrated and changed into His Real True Presence.

And maybe what makes Gino so interested in wine is also what makes Jesus so interested in it. Because wine is by far the most unique and complex drink in all creation.

When you ferment other fruits, such as blueberries or cherries, they keep tasting and smelling like the blueberries or cherries that they are. No so with red grape wine. The tastes that can be found in good red wine include chocolate, cherry, oak, cedar, raspberry, vanilla, mint, herbs, cocoa, meat, smoke, liquorice, coffee, cola, and black pepper — all coming from the grape alone.

My chemist friend tells me that there are 4000 different chemical components in a grape which give each wine its distinct flavor. And just the slightest presence of one of these chemicals will change the taste of a wine.

Think of a packet of sugar. If you divided a packet of sugar into a trillion pieces, that’s the minimum amount of chemical you would need to change the taste of a wine. Add one-one trillionth of another chemical, and we humans would again taste the difference. It’s no wonder that Our Lord chose this complex drink to become the center of our faith and worship.

Wine is very much like the Holy Spirit, as described by St. Paul in the 2nd Reading. He tells us how there are different kinds of spiritual gifts but only one Holy Spirit, there are different forms of service but the same Lord, there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.

We call the Church the mystical Body of Christ. If we are the mystical Body of Christ we must also be the mystical Blood of Christ as well. And just as one-one trillionth of a particle in a grape will influence the whole batch of wine for better or for worse, so will you and I by our actions influence the whole Church.   Not one of us is insignificant as a member of the Mystical Blood of Christ! 

May we never think that our lives don’t mean much, or that we are too small to make any difference as a Christian. Whatever our gifts are, may we use them for the up building of one another.

I wish to conclude this meditation on physical wine and the mystical Body and Blood of Christ with a few verses by the great English Catholic writer and poet Hilaire Belloc:

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!

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