In the Gospel today of the Wedding Feast at Cana we have a theological portrait both of Mother Mary and also of Prayer. Lets look at the Gospel along Five lines:
I. The Place that Mary has – The text says, There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
It is a fascinating thing about these opening verses that Mary almost seems to dominate the scene and the presence of Jesus is mentioned secondly. St. Thomas Aquinas, noting this says that at Cana Mary is acting as the “go-between” in arranging a mystical marriage (Commentary on John, 98; and 2,1, n.336, 338, and 343, 151-152). Hence in a way she almost dominates the scene, and, once the Marriage is arranged, steps back, her final words to us being, “Do whatever he tells you.”
How many of us have experienced Mary’s role in helping us find her Son and our place at the wedding feast of the Lamb. I know in my own life it was Mary who drew me back to her Son when I had strayed.
II. The Prayer that Mary Makes – The text says, When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
Notice now another central role that Mary has: she is interceding here, she is praying for others to her Son. Notice three qualities to her prayer:
Her discernment – She notices the problem, probably even before the Groom and Bride. Indeed Mothers often notice the needs of their children before they do. But why didn’t Jesus notice? Perhaps he did, and surely as God he knew. But he waits for us to ask. Yes, God waits and expects us to ask. In part this respect, for not all of us are ready to receive all his gifts. In part also, this expectation that we ask is also rooted in God’s teaching us that we must learn to depend on him and learn habitually to bring him our many needs. The Book of James says, You have not because You ask not (James 4:2).
Her diligence – Simply put, she actually prays. Rather than fret and be anxious she goes straightway to her Son out of love for the couple (us) and trust in her Son. She sees the need and gets right to the work of praying, of beseeching her Son.
Her deference – Note that she does not tell Jesus what to do per se, says simply notes the need: “They have no wine.” She is not directive, as if to say, “Here is my agenda and solution for this problem, follow my plans exactly, just sing here at the bottom of my plan for action.” Rather she simply observes the problem and places it before her Son in confidence. He knows what to do and will decide the best way to handle things.
Thus Mary models prayer for us. What wine are you lacking now? What wine do your children and grandchildren lack? Do you notice your needs and the needs of others and consistently pray? Or does it take things getting critical for you to notice or pray? And when you pray do you go to the Lord with trust or an agenda?
So the Scriptures teach that Mary is the quintessential woman of prayer, a model of prayer. She not only intercedes for us, she teaches us how to pray.
III.The Portrait of Mother Mary – The text says, Woman, how does this concern of yours affect me? My hour has not yet come. His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Notice three things about this brief dialogue
The Title of Mary – Jesus calls her “Woman.” In Jewish culture a man could well respectfully call a woman “Woman,” but it was unheard of for a son to call his mother “Woman.”
Hence this text stands out as unusual and signals us that Jesus is speaking at a deeper level here. In fact, in the Johannine texts Jesus always calls his Mother, “Woman” and this in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 which says I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, while you strike at his heel.” And thus Jesus is saying that Mary is this woman who is prophesied.
So far from being disrespectful to Mary, Jesus is actually exulting her: You are the woman who was prophesied. You are she from whose “seed” comes forth the Son destined to destroy the power of Satan.
In this sense, Mary is also the new Eve. For Jesus also calls her “Woman” at the foot of the Cross wherein He is the New Adam, Mary is the New Eve, and the tree this time is the Cross. And thus, just as we got into trouble by a man, a woman and tree, so now we get out of trouble by the same path. Adam’s “no” and sin is reversed by Jesus who saves us by his, “Yes.” Eve’s “No” is reversed by Mary’s yes.
The Tenacity of Mary – Jesus says to his mother, literally in the Greek, “What to me and to thee, Woman?” (τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι – ti emoi kai soi, gunai) Usually, in the Scriptures, when the phrase comes up (e.g. Gen 23:15; 1 Kings 19:20) it indicates some kind of tension between the interlocutors. And thus, on the surface, it would seem that Jesus is expressing resistance over his mother striving to involve him in this matter. And yet, what makes this interpretation odd, is that Mary doesn’t seem to interpret it as resistance.
Perhaps there was something in the tone of voice that Jesus used, or perhaps there was a look between them that resolves the tension, and evokes the sympathy of Jesus to the cause. Whatever the case, Mary stays in the conversation with Jesus, and overcomes whatever tension or resistance existed at first. In this, we surely see her tenacity.
And this tenacity comports well with the kind of similar tenacity we observe of her another places. For though startled by the presence of the angel Gabriel, she does engage Gabriel in a respectful, but pointed conversation that seeks greater detail. She also hastens to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and in the dialogue that follows, she proclaims a Magnificat that is anything but a shy and reclining prayer. She joyfully acknowledges the Lord’s power in her life, and all but proclaims a revolutionary new world order.
To be tenacious means to hold fast in spite of obstacles or discouragements. However we are to interpret Jesus’ resistance to Mary’s initial concern, it is clear that Mother Mary does not give up, and that she confidently expects the Lord to answer her favorably. This is clear from her confident departure from the conversation and turning to the Stewards with the instruction, “Do whatever he tells you.”
The Trust of Mary – She simply departs, telling the stewards, “Do whatever he tells you.” She does not hover. She does not come back and check on the progress of things. She does not seek to control or manipulate the outcome. She simply leaves the scene and leaves it all to Jesus.
IV. The power of Mary’s prayer – Whatever his initial concerns regarding mother Mary’s request, Jesus now goes to work: Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from — although the servers who had drawn the water knew —, the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
If we do the math, we may confidently presume that Jesus produced almost 150 gallons of the best wine. Mary’s prayer, and tenacity have produced abundant results.
Sometimes the Lord says wait, only to grant further abundance. Scripture says, But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).
The Catholic tradition of turning to Mary and regarding her as a special intercessor with particular power, is rooted in the passage. But she is not merely an intercessor for us, she is also a model for us. Namely, that we should persevere in prayer and go to the Lord was confident expectation of its abundant response. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16).
V. The product of Mary’s prayer – The text says, Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory and his disciples began to believe in him.
And thus, at the conclusion of this Gospel is the significant result that many began to believe in the Lord this day on account of this miracle. And here is Mary’s essential role with reference to Jesus, that she should lead many souls to a deeper union with her Son. And having done so, she leaves us with this instruction, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Mary’s role is to hold up Christ for us to see, and she did a Bethlehem for the shepherds, and later the Wise Men; to hold him up as she did for Simeon and Anna and the Temple; to point to his glory and she does here at Cana; and ultimately to hold his body in her arms at the foot of the cross after He is taken down.
Note too, that as a mother, Mary has a special role in the beginnings of our faith, in the infancy and childhood of our faith. The phrase in the text says many “began to believe.” This is something called an “inceptive aorist,” which is often used to stress the beginning of an action or the entrance into a state. Thus Mary has a special role in helping to initiate our faith, in helping, by God’s grace to birth Christ in us. She is, as St. Thomas says, the go-between, the great match-maker in the mystical marriage of Christ and the soul. And having done that her final words are, “Do whatever he tells you.” And while she may draw back a bit, she continues to pray for us.
Here then are some Biblical basics about Mother Mary, in this Gospel of the wedding feast of Cana.
Somehow I am mindful of an old Gospel song which says, My Mother Prayed for me had me on her mind. Took the time and prayed for me. I’m so glad she prayed. I’m So glad she prayed for me.