Wine in Earthenware

26 September 2007. Wednesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 9, 1-6: All We Need is Ourselves

What should you bring in proclaiming the Word of God? Jesus tells us: nothing! Our life is sufficient enough: no extra clothing needed, no luggage. Just bring yourself.

Often we suffer from low self-esteem. We cannot believe that the Lord can make some good out of us. So we find ourselves making excuses: I am not intelligent; I am not talented; I cannot speak to a crowd. There is a thousand and one reason why we cannot proclaim and evangelize. Why we do not let our light from Christ shine on a lamp stand or on a hill. We cannot believe that God can store something greater than us in a person such as ourselves. In other words, we think we are ugly. I have a story which I found in a book called Fr. Frank Mahalic SVD’s book, 1,000 Stories: Volume 1.

Joshua was a very wise counselor to the king, but he had a rather ugly face. One day, the king’s daughter, jealous that Joshua was getting more attention from her father than she, tried to cut him down to size. So mockingly she asked him one day.

“If you are so wise, tell me why God chose to store so much wisdom in such a plain vessel.”

Joshua then asked her, “Does your father have any wine?”

“I thought everyone in the world knows that my father has cellars full of the finest wine in the land. How stupid can one be?”

“And where does he keep them?” he went on.

“Why, in large earthenware jugs,” she answered quickly.

“Earthenware!” Joshua roared with laughter until the young princess shouted at him in anger. “Forgive me,” said Joshua, “but I am surprised that anyone of your father’s stature would use such plain material. Even peasants store their wine in earthenware. I would expect that the royal wine would be kept in something more elegant, such as silver or gold.” He bowed and left the young woman.

Quickly, the princess marched to the wine cellars and told the chief steward to pour all the wine out of earthenware jugs into vessels of gold and silver.

Shortly afterwards, the king invited people to a banquet and served his best wine. The guests sipped it and their faces puckered up. The wine had turned sour.

The king was furious and called the chief steward and asked for an explanation, which he got. The daughter got a proper scolding.

After the banquet the princess ran to Joshua’s room and shouted, “Why did you trick me into pouring the wine from the earthenware pots into vessels of silver and gold.”

“I am truly sorry, little one,” began Joshua, “but perhaps you now see why God sometimes prefers to put wisdom in ugly containers. Wisdom, like wine, is best preserved in humble vessels.”

In other words, all we need is what we’ve got: no need to carry extra luggage — sandals or an extra cloak. All we need is wisdom: Wisdom that comes from a deep and personal reflection of how God’s love works in our lives. Wisdom in earthen vessels.

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