Archbishop Lori’s Homily: “Life is Beautiful” Mass

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Life is Beautiful” Mass
January 16, 2022

Cathedral of Mary Our Queen/St. Louis, Clarksville

Witness of Love

In 1987, mom and dad decided to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in a big way, on the score that they might not be around to celebrate their 50th. Well, their 50th wedding anniversary came and went, as did their 60th, and finally, on their 70th anniversary, dad asked mom, “Margaret, do you think this marriage is going to work?” “I think we should give it a little more time,” mom replied, not missing a beat. Ultimately, they were married 73 years and my mom, now 102 years of age, dearly misses her husband of so many years.

Mom and dad were blessed with an extraordinarily long and stable marriage. In their love for one another and in the home their love created, I learned about the beauty, goodness, and dignity of human life. They taught me that life is beautiful, first of all by sharing with me their Catholic faith. As I rehearsed my catechism lessons, mom and dad would take time to tell me how much their faith in Jesus and their love for the Blessed Mother meant to them. And every Tuesday evening, my family would gather around our RCA television set to watch Bishop Fulton J. Sheen explain to us why “life is worth living.”

But Mom and Dad taught me to cherish human life in another way. Their firstborn son, my brother Frankie, had special needs, tremendous needs. In the 1950’s, there were few resources to help parents in such circumstances, but mom and dad did their best to care for Frankie, to make him happy, and to cope with the problems and anguish his condition imposed upon them. Because they loved my brother, they made great sacrifices for him, and they continued to love him right up until his death in 2015. In their lifelong commitment to Frankie, my parents taught me that all life is beautiful, including the lives of those whom society would prefer to discard or forget, such as the unborn, the frail elderly, the chronically ill, and the disabled.

Wedding Feast of Cana

Yes, mom and dad, in their love for one another, taught me about the value of life. So too, it is instructive that Jesus chose reveal his love and respect for human life by performing his first miracle at the wedding feast of an unnamed couple in Cana. Among the invited guests were Mary, Jesus’ mother, Jesus himself, and his disciples, quite the guest list, I think you would agree! Yet this wedding feast may well have been lost to history except for what went wrong. To the chagrin of the bridegroom, the wine ran out and that was unthinkable. Mary interceded for this couple with Jesus, who changed water into wine, indeed, the best wine imaginable, more than 120 gallons of it! That alone is worth remembering!

But that’s not the whole story. There is more here than meets the eye. Jesus was there, not only as an invited guest, but as the bridegroom of the Church, the author of life itself and the lover of our souls. Mary was there, not merely as a sympathetic guest, but as a disciple of the Lord, indeed, the disciple, whose heart was ever alert to God’s plan and purpose. In the embarrassed couple’s plight, she saw an opening for God’s glory to be revealed. To her Son, Mary simply says, “They have no wine”. He responds, “Woman how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” Here, Jesus addresses Mary, not as his mother, but as the model disciple, representing the Church and all of us in the Church who are striving to be disciples. The “hour” Jesus refers to is the time of his saving death and resurrection. It had not yet arrived, but as Jesus began his public ministry, it was fast approaching. Always obedient to the will of God, Mary told the waiters (as she tells us), “Do whatever he tells you” – and in that moment God’s glory was revealed. Wine of the best vintage became a sign of the blood Jesus would shed for us, and a foretaste of the marriage feast of heaven when a redeemed humanity would celebrate forever its communion with the Lord.

In the life of a couple just beginning their marriage, the Kingdom of God was revealed. Jesus acted in a startling way, but not merely to relieve their embarrassment. Rather, he chose their wedding to show himself as the Lord and Redeemer, who came to draw us into a new and final covenant of love, a marriage with God. It was and is to be a relationship of intimate love and abundant life, in which the dignity and beauty of all human life is most fully revealed. By performing this miracle at a wedding feast, Jesus also demonstrated that his Kingdom can and does dawn upon us in the intimacy of married love and in the give and take of family life.

The Mystery of Cana Continues Today

Most of you listening to me are married couples. You know better than me how challenging your vocation truly is. Even the happiest couples can disappoint one another, argue, and miscommunicate. Even the happiest homes are marred by suffering of all kinds, but I’d venture to say that the greatest sufferings of spouses and parents are those that afflict their children, the precious, beautiful lives they were privileged to bring into this world. A mother seeing the life of her daughter ebb away said to me, “why can’t it be me instead?” A parent peering into the casket of a child gunned down on the street is inconsolable… Yet, in 45 years of priesthood, I have often seen how Christ acts in such situations, touching the hearts of parents and family members with unexpected graces, revealing and expanding their capacity to love and appreciate the precious gift of life. In this way too, Jesus changes the water of our daily existence into the wine of his precious love, through which we savor the beauty of human life.

The Chance to Defend and Cherish Life

In the week ahead, we will have an opportunity to bear witness to our belief that life is beautiful, not just life in general, but each and every human life from the moment of conception, through natural death, and in all the stages in between. In Washington, D.C. people will gather from many places for the March for Life, to bear witness to what both faith and reason teach us, namely, that life is beautiful, and therefore worthy of care and protection at every stage and in every circumstance: the life of the unborn child, the life of the mother facing a difficult pregnancy, the life of victims of poverty and injustice—every life deserves care and protection.

The lesson of life’s beauty, learned best in the family circle, deserves to be writ large across the whole of our society and all of us have a part in doing so. Now and in the week ahead, let us pray for renewed resolve to share our love of life with a family member, a neighbor, or a fellow parishioner. Let us resolve to know and to understand, to love and to help moms facing difficult pregnancies. Let us resolve to create a society that cherishes and protects everyone’s life. May we hasten the day when, as a Church and a society, we can say with one voice, “Life is beautiful!”

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.