A Mother’s Wisdom

“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.” So ends the gospel passage for this Sunday, the second Sunday of ordinary time. The whole passage presents the very familiar scene of the wedding at Cana. In fact, this scene is so familiar to us that it is easy to overlook the rich significance of this event.

First of all, the word “sign” is important. In the Gospel of St. John, whenever the evangelist describes what we think of as a miracle, he uses the term “sign.” The signs that Jesus performs are not just magic actions or impressive displays of power. Rather, Jesus’ signs point to the presence and activity of God Himself, who reveals His love and life-giving work in Jesus’ own words and deeds. The signs Jesus accomplishes make known His glory as the true Son of God, and they are intended to lead others to faith — that is, they show us that the way, the truth and the life that we seek has been revealed concretely in Jesus.

It is also significant that this revelation takes place in the setting of a wedding. By His presence, Jesus blesses the newly-wed couple as they begin their life together as husband and wife. But on a deeper level, Jesus’ presence at a wedding points to the nuptial union between Christ and the Church, with Himself as the bridegroom and the community of all who believe in Him (which includes all of us) as the bride. On a day approximately three years removed from Cana, Jesus will sacrifice Himself for His bride; He will lay down His life on the Cross so that His bride, the Church, will be freed from sin and prepared to celebrate the wedding feast that reaches its fullest perfection in heaven.

This is what underlies Jesus’ dialogue with Mary, His mother. The Lord addresses her (who intercedes for the young couple at a socially awkward moment, as she intercedes for us in all our moments of difficulty) as “Woman,” and says to her, “My hour has not yet come.” The term “Woman” is connected with Jesus’ “hour.” In John’s Gospel, the “hour” of Christ is the time of His final triumph over sin and death. It is the hour of His Passion, but also the hour of His victory. In the midst of this “hour,” as He hung upon the cross, Jesus again addresses Mary as “Woman.” The first woman of the first creation was called Eve (“Life”) because she became the mother of all the living (Gen 3:20). Now, Mary, the woman, is shown to be the mother of those who receive new life in the new creation that results from the obedient self-sacrifice of Jesus, the New Adam. Mary is, in other words, a figure of the Church; she is the New Eve, as the Fathers of the Church called her. Mary, intimately associated with Christ’s redeeming work, is the woman who is our spiritual mother. Jesus’ reply to His mother at Cana anticipates her effective intercession and her new role as mother of those reborn in Christ through faith and baptism.

To her children, that is, to the Church in every age, Mary offers her great words of maternal counsel: “Do whatever He tells you.” These are the last words Mary speaks in the gospel, and they form for us the key to discipleship: a key that was first lived out in Mary’s own life. Doing what Jesus tells us is the surest, swiftest, indeed the only way to advance in holiness. Mary did so herself. Let us, who have witnessed the great signs Jesus has performed and have been led to faith through them, do likewise.

Fr. De Ladurantaye is director of the Office of Sacred Liturgy, secretary for diocesan religious education, a professor of theology at Notre Dame Graduate School and in residence at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)

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