2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)
Who does not love the story of Jesus’ changing the water into wine? [Jn 2:1-11] Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding at Cana is exciting, mysterious, and intriguing. It sets the stage for the ongoing revelation of Jesus’ glory to his disciples. It is a richly symbolic multiplication story foretelling the kind of restorative mission Jesus is about to begin. It compares an abundance of the finest wine at a wedding banquet to God’s overflowing love in the Kingdom of God.
The metaphor of marriage is woven throughout the Hebrew Scriptures to describe God’s covenant relationship with human beings, and it’s no secret that it has not always been a happy union. But here, in the telling of Jesus’ miraculous production of a copious supply of the finest wine in the midst of a wedding banquet where there was none, the gospel writer invites us to lift our glasses in celebration of a renewed union between God and humanity.
Abundance overcomes emptiness. Change cures lethargy. The permanent shift from the old to the new has been brought about by the life and passion of Jesus. This wine will not run out. The celebration will never end.
Clearly, this story is about Jesus. But, can we talk about Mary’s role?
“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. ² Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. ³ When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” [Jn 2:1-3]
Let’s give Mary some props. She’s the one who recognized the need, and she’s the one who brought it to Jesus.
In those days, wedding feasts went on for several days. The gospel doesn’t say how many days of celebrating had passed when the wine ran out—it didn’t matter— Mary knew, as any good host knows, that when the wine runs out, the party is over.
So, Mary brought her concern to the one she trusted would take care of it. She turned to Jesus and said, “They have no wine.” Now, Jesus might have said, “Oh, I’ll let the bridegroom know”, or “It’s getting late, we should probably head out soon anyways,” but Jesus knew his mother’s statement was more than a simple appeal for his help. He said “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” [Jn 2:4]
Let’s sidestep Jesus’ astonishingly fresh retort to his mother and note that Mary wisely ignored it. In doing so, she turned the entire matter over to him, telling the servers to do whatever he said.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to a few lifeless banquets, events and liturgies during which I might have said, “They have no wine.” I probably have been the host or facilitator of some of them. To be fair, on occasion, it was my own lack of spirit that was the issue. Mary noticed a lack of wine, but her words can also be heard as an observation of the banquet’s spiritual dryness. Mary knew something had to be done to bring the party back to life, so she turned to Jesus.
With that, Mary’s job was complete—and in more ways than one.
First, her instruction to the servers to “Do whatever he tells you” [Jn 2:5] established her awareness of Jesus’ authority.
Second, because she brought the need to Jesus, the wedding celebration was spared party paralysis (indeed, the festivities continue to this day).
Third, theologically speaking, Mary’s understanding of God’s will for her life, which led from her fiat to the foot of the cross, included putting her trust in Jesus.
Fourth, Mary’s words and actions provide us with a model for prayer: in times of spiritual dryness—our own, that of our family, community, church or even our country—we should bring our concern to Jesus, and do whatever he tells us.
Fifth, although a mother’s job never ends, Mary’s part in the miracle included both her recognition of Jesus’ hour—his readiness to fly, so to speak—and her time to let him go.
Change happens when the old ways no longer achieve their originally intended purpose. Jesus’ miracle did exactly this. The results of ritual practices, such as those for which the six water jars were designed, were temporary. The miracle at Cana produced a permanent change. Jesus himself was the miracle at Cana. And Mary played a part in it.
Now, how about some wine?
Today’s readings can be found here.
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