This is one of those dreaded Mysteries of Light, dreaded, I tell you, because this is such a mystery of our redemption, going to the very hearts of Jesus and Mary, that people are afraid to plumb its depths. Some people pretend to be aloof to the innovations JP2, but speak with real disdain about Jesus and Mary at Cana of Galilee. So, no. This protestation has nothing to do with being “of tradition.” It’s about fear of all that is good and holy. So, with no fear whatsoever, thanks be to God, let’s dive in…
A wedding took place in Cana of Galilee, just under four miles northeast of Nazareth as the crow flies. At the time, both were very tiny villages, and everyone would know everyone from both villages. But what happens here is more than that.
Note that the text never speaks of Mary, but only the Mother of Jesus (four times) and “Woman” (once). There are many reasons for this, but, not to get ahead of ourselves, let’s just notice that here, with this couple getting married, Mary is not present as an individual, as in, “Hey! Let’s invite Mary! She’s really cool!” No. In their perspective, to them, she is the Mother of Jesus. This doesn’t at all mean that they have great respect for Jesus. The fact is, we don’t read of her as being invited at all. She’s simply there, as in, of course she was there. She belongs there. Wait… What?
Sorry to be pedantic, but the Greek syntax here signals some kind of adversity. After ever so flatly stating simply that the Mother of Jesus was there, with no mention of her needing any kind of invitation, we then read, as if this was shocking: “But even (δὲ καὶ) Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.” It’s like the wedding couple were tolerating Jesus and His disciples, like they were coerced into inviting them, you know, by His Mother, who herself had to be there.
Also, just to say, this wedding couple is desperately poor. They ran out of wine, which is like a mortal sin, so to speak, for a wedding. Was adversity to the presence of Jesus and His disciples based on knowing that if they came, provisions would run out and they would be embarrassed? Perhaps, but I think there’s more to this, a real resentment, not for the Mother of Jesus, but quite certainly for Jesus.
Let’s see. The bride’s biological father and family are either dead or missing. Is she effectively an orphan? Her father and family would have been responsible for making sure there are enough provisions for the celebration. But the maître d’, not the caterer (as he is using what is provided to him), boisterously, publicly, to save face, humiliates not the father of the bride (who is missing), but rather the bridegroom in regard to the sequencing of qualities of wine. This maître d’ was certainly tasked with this wedding at the very last second, knowing nothing of the provisions even as the celebration continued, and is likely condescendingly playing this role pro-bono because of who’s now invited, that is, not the Mother of Jesus, taken for granted, but even Jesus and His disciples. It would be evident to the maître d’ that this couple would be too poor to pay him, but he wanted to make a good impression for future engagements in town. The servants are surely just friends of the poor bridegroom.
The Mother of Jesus is also playing a role in the wedding for this couple, making sure that provisions are abundant. But who does this at an organized wedding without being in that role falling to her by right? What I think is going on is that the bride many years previously was an orphaned street urchin in Nazareth and was adopted into the Holy Family. That Holy Family was as poor as she, for when the Holy Family returned with absolutely nothing to Nazareth after years of forced exile in Egypt, they of course returned to see their house now occupied by squatters. And she wouldn’t have been the only street urchin. I’m guessing every street kid who wanted to be adopted into the Holy Family was adopted. It would have fallen to Saint Joseph to provide for the celebration of the wedding, but now it was up to Mary. Saint Joseph was now dead.
But Mary, called the Mother of Jesus, does as she always has over the years with Jesus growing up the good Son of His foster father Joseph, helping to provide for the Holy Family. With Joseph now dead, the Mother of Jesus goes to Jesus for help.
Let’s review: upon their return from exile, the Holy Family would have to begin by living on the streets on the margins of Nazareth. The kids who are thrown out by brutal families who consider themselves to be too poor for another child, or are thrown out because they are considered to be troublemakers, or because it’s their fault that they are crippled or mentally challenged, were attracted to the newcomers from Egypt as they seemed to be of good heart. These are surely the “brothers and sisters of Jesus”.
But Jesus is the only one born of… wait for it… born of the Mother of Jesus. Adoptees having a rivalry with a biological child is certainly a temptation for those in such a circumstance. They might feel they have to prove themselves to be as good as or better than any biological child. Recall that they once held Jesus to be beside Himself (Mark 3), dragging the Mother of Jesus to see that Jesus had not even time to eat because of His preaching the Truth, because of His casting out demons, because of His acts of goodness and kindness. They are better than Him! He doesn’t have time to eat! Strange how that text puts it, not the brothers and sisters of Jesus, but “those associated with Him (οἱ παρ’ αὐτοῦ), as in, those living with Him at His house. Any house later acquired in Nazareth was as chaotic as we ourselves being adopted into the Holy Family during the Hour of Jesus when He was tortured to death in front of His Mother, that great Woman interceding for us ever so maternally in now also her hour of intercession. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
But let’s say for now that this is why Mary is not simply Mary, but is “the Mother of Jesus.” It’s them over against Jesus. But the mother of such a household is going to make a bid for peace: if she’s going to be there at a wedding of one of those adopted street waifs – and she must be there – she would, of course, use this as leverage to force the couple to invite Jesus and His disciples. Adding Jesus and His disciples to the list would be a big deal for the couple getting married, not only because this would add many voracious appetites with a proportionate thirst for which they did not have the resources, but because of the rivalry. That dearest Mary was able to get Jesus and all His disciples invited was no small victory. Haha. I love that.
Fulfilling her role, Mary flatly states to Jesus: “They’ve run out of wine.” He knows that she knows of the rivalry. She would have seen it play out, on their part, 24/7/365. That “They’ve run out of wine isn’t just a statement of fact, but a challenge and an order, as in, don’t dare bring up any rivalry, but just get it done!
If it were me, I would just say, “Yes, mom!” and do what I had to do to buy wine out of my own pocket. As always, Jesus jacks up the stakes to make of this a learning experience equaling that of His bar-Mitzvah eighteen years previous to this.
In Greek there’s a very abrupt question used to put people off. There are no verbs, no conjunctions, which are simply implied: “What to me to you?” More gently put, this would be “What is this to me and to you?” But, no, Jesus is quite abrupt: Tί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί? What to me to you? In Mark 5:7, this is the question, verbatim, put by Satan to Jesus. Yikes! But, it’s just a question to the Mother of Jesus, abrupt, not as an insult, but to make her think.
Also, Jesus tacks on what many have considered to be an insult: “What’s it to me and to you, Woman?!”
Does this seem to strip her of her right to be an individual called Mary, of her right to recognized as Jesus’ Mother? Is she just some “woman” needing, just because she is a “woman”, to be put in her place? Is Jesus to be praised for His apparent misogyny even against His own Mother, dearest Mary?
No, no. This is a most exalted title. She is the Woman of Genesis 3:15, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of the Redeemer. She is the Ark of the Covenant in the mirror passage in the Apocalypse, the Woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, crowned with the stars, the Mother of the Redeemer. She is the Woman, ever so maternal, the Mother of the Redeemer standing under the Cross, taking John as her son, all of us street urchins now adopted into the Holy Family by her intercession. She is the Woman, who’s intercession for the celebration of a marriage at Cana is to be fulfilled on Calvary at the marriage of her Divine Son with His Immaculate Bride, the Church, when her intercession that we receive the grace of redemption, of salvation, will provide us with the occasion to be the sons and daughters of God.
That Mary is singled out as the Mother of Jesus possibly as a way to emphasize a stupid rivalry that those adopted have over against Jesus is reversed to be that which praises Jesus, who is desirous of their salvation in Him, He the Head of the Body, those street urchins, that is, us, now the members of His Body, as Saint Paul says. If Mary is Mother of Jesus, she is therefore, because of that, their Mother as well.
The wedding feast of Cana is fulfilled in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, the Last Supper, which is itself united with Calvary, that which founds the mercy of adoption on justice with the wedding vows that Jesus takes with His Immaculate Bride, the Church – This is my body given for you in Sacrifice, my blood poured our for you in Sacrifice – total self-giving, so that what we have to celebrate is not just water transformed into wine but wine transformed into the blood of the Lamb.
That’s all done in Jesus’ hour. He makes this also her hour, interceding for the image of God to be restored in us. To be clear: Jesus uses this occasion of a wedding to do this because male / female / marriage / family is the image of God that was broken with original sin but is to be restored with the marriage of Jesus Himself.
Jesus’ heart is always with the heart of His Mother. It might seem brutally so, but instead, it is He who is giving her insight to the heights of her vocation also to be our Mother in the restoration of the image of God in our very beings. Jesus and Mary are always heart to heart, The Two Hearts.
If we let this heart stopping mystery overwhelm us, ten Hail Mary’s fly by…
By the way, Mary’s heart is immaculate. She had purity of heart, agility of soul, clarity of vision, profundity of understanding. Of course she understands that Jesus in directing her to His hour means that, yes, this marriage must be celebrated. “Do whatever He tells you.”