“By her maternal charity, Mary cares for the brethren of her Son who still wander through this world in the midst of dangers and difficulties until they are led to the happiness of their heavenly home.” – Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium 61
John 2:1-12: Three days later there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said ‘Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water,’ and they filled them to the brim. ‘Draw some out now’ he told them ‘and take it to the steward.’ They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from – only the servants who had drawn the water knew – the steward called the bridegroom and said, ‘People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now.’ This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and the brothers, but they stayed there only a few days.
Christ the Lord Mary knew how to treat the Lord: there was a crisis, and she went to him for a solution. The vast majority of Jews living in Palestine were poor. Wedding feasts and religious festivals were their sole respite from a life of hard labor and simple survival. In fact, wedding feasts often lasted for days at a time (they took the place of our honeymoons, which didn’t exist in first-century Israel), and the entire town participated. To run out of wine in the middle of it would not only deflate the festive atmosphere, but it would also deeply shame the newlyweds and their families, turning what should be the most joyous days of their lives into an embarrassment. Attentive to the needs of those around her, Mary saw the crisis coming, and she knew just what to do. Even when the words of Jesus’ answer seemed like a rebuff, she knew that he would come through. Jesus will never reject the humble appeal of faith – he is a Lord who “came not be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28), and he’s hoping that we will have as much confidence in him as his mother did.
We shouldn’t overlook the power Jesus shows in this miracle. It was the “first of his signs,” and by it he “let his glory be seen,” to the benefit of his disciples, whose faith it deepened. Picture what happened. Pretend you are one of the servants. You fill up six huge stone kegs with water (no easy task when you have to go back and forth to the well). Then this young rabbi from the neighboring town tells you to draw some out (some of the water, remember – you know it’s water, because you put it in there yourself) and bring it to the steward in charge of testing the wine before serving it. Imagine how dumbfounded you would be by such an order. But you do it. And you’re carrying the water over to the steward, glancing nervously back over your shoulder at Mary and Jesus, who motion for you to keep going. You hand the gourd to the boss, looking down, maybe even closing your eyes in anticipation of his wrathful rebuke. And then, all of a sudden, he smacks his lips and hums with pleasure…. Jesus turned a hundred gallons of water into excellent wine, effortlessly. This is our Lord.
Christ the Teacher Jesus treated his mother with love and respect. He sees her not only as God’s chosen instrument, but also as the woman who brought him into the world, took care of him when he was a helpless infant, and taught him to speak, to pray, to work, and to live. Both Jesus and Mary were free from sin, but that made them more human, not less. And so the natural, incomparable bond that forms between a mother and her son was deeper, purer, and more binding in their case than in any other case in human history. Since baptism has brought us into Christ’s family, our love and respect for Mary should echo Christ’s.
On the other hand, no one knows Jesus better than his mother. She bore him in her womb, nursed him at her breast, and raised him from childhood to manhood. Thirty of his thirty-three years on earth were spent in almost constant contact with her. When he begins his public ministry, she fades into the background but remains faithful: when he was in agony on the cross, she was there beside him. When she says something about him, therefore, we should take it to heart (just as he took to heart her hint that he should do something about the wine crisis), and in this passage she gives us an unambiguous lesson about how to relate to Jesus.
The Bible is inspired, so it is no coincidence that Mary’s last biblical words say everything that needs to be said: “Do whatever he tells you.” If we followed that one piece of advice, heeding Christ’s every order and suggestion (those in the Scriptures, those of his Church, and those in our conscience), the water of our normal, everyday activities would quickly be turned into the wine of supernatural joy and fruitfulness. We would no longer be mere men and women; we would be saints.
Christ the Friend Jesus: I brought my disciples to a wedding feast. Think about that for a moment. Do you think it is something that happened by chance? Not at all. Too often people think of me as a stern taskmaster, distant and removed from the healthy joys and activities of the human experience. But I was the one who invented those joys and activities!
I came to earth not just to teach you theology and not to douse your zest for life, but to bring everything about life back to its fullness, back to its complete and rightly ordered fruition. I know much better than anyone else that it is part of human nature to celebrate, to enjoy the good things of creation, like marriage and wine. But only I can teach you how to do so in a balanced, healthy way, in a way that will deepen your joy and not cheapen it. Stay close to me, seek to know me better, and I will show you how to experience more fully the life I have given you.
Christ in My Life Lord, I am so used to this miracle – too used to it. I have heard about it so many times. But when I stop to really reflect on what you did, I am amazed. Why do I live on the mundane surface of things so much? Why can’t I keep in mind the wonders of your love, the gift of your presence, the assurance of your wisdom? You are all mine, Lord, and I am all yours. Keep me closer to your heart…
If I don’t seek out and fulfill your will, whose will is left? Mine is ignorant and narrow-minded. No one else has your wisdom, love and fidelity. I want to know your will, your teaching, and your criteria. I want to learn to hear your voice. I want to live out all the normal responsibilities of my life as you would have me live them out, because I know that if I do, you will make my life bear abundant fruit…
I don’t want to be one of those sad, cold, self-righteously pious, proper people. I want to be a saint, the saint you created me to be. The true saints, the ones your Church encourages me to look at, are so full of life that wherever they go they cause a revolution. Fill me with life, Lord, with your life, with true life. Make my words and my glance glow with the warmth of your love. Teach me to do your will…
PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.
Art: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. Detail of Nozze di Cana (Wedding at Cana), Bernardino Poccetti, 1604, CCA-SA, Wikimedia Commons.