This past Sunday was the second Sunday in Ordinary time, and the Gospel reading in Year C was the story in John 2 of Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” (And) Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told 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.” Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him. [John 2:1-11]
Mary figures prominently in this story. I am always struck by Mary’s role as an intercessor and as Mother of the Church, both of which are found in this story. In her role as intercessor, she alerts Jesus when the people are in need. Here they need wine if the wedding feast is to continue according to custom. Those of us who pray “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death” know from this Bible story our entreaties to her are efficacious and appropriate.
Mary instructs the people at Cana to “do whatever He tells you.” This is also her word to the Church: “Obey the Word.” The Bible can be reduced to two words: Love and Obey. We do not fully understand the first word and we understand all too well the second word, so God gives us the whole Bible to help us comprehend the former and embrace the latter. Mary’s immaculate conception is to me the only sensible explanation for her lack of difficulty in obeying God. Full of grace, she was not structurally inclined to challenge God or disobey Him. As Mother of the Church, she encourages us to overcome our structural inclinations and obey the Word.
The message of hope and promise in the changing of water into wine in the story of the wedding at Cana is that if we choose to do whatever He tells us, He can transform the ordinary into something extraordinary. Just as the servants dared to draw out some of the water they had just put in a stone jar and take that water to the wine steward for tasting, so are we called to obey Him even if what He tells us to do is foolishness to the world. That this is not easy is implied in the story. The servants knew they were taking water to the wine steward for tasting, yet they did it. They knew a miracle had taken place when the wine steward remarked on the wine’s quality. The wine steward made a comment on the normal ordering of wines at a party, but the servants saw something far more interesting and important. Ordinary things are made extraordinary and even Holy when lives are led in obedience to God. By doing whatever He tells you, you will see Him more clearly, just as the servants saw more clearly than did the wine steward. Nothing could be more ordinary than pouring water into a jar, yet this is the story we tell when we move into the season of Epiphany when the Son of Man is made manifest. We tell this story because this pouring of ordinary water was done by people open to the power of God, and that openness played a significant part in the power of the first miracle of Jesus.
Mary’s encouragement must be powerful, for the servants knew they were taking water to a wine steward but did it anyway. When we react with dismissal or condescension upon hearing that someone else payed for Mary to wrap her mantle of protection around him, let us be reminded of how her mantle protected and strengthened the faith of the servants at the wedding in Cana.