Is 62:1-5; Ps 96; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Jn 2:1-11
Grace in Needfulness
“Mother knows best,” so the popular adage goes. Mary in our Gospel Reading today is presented as a dutiful mother, feeling for both the newlyweds and her son Jesus.
Running out of wine at a protracted wedding celebration is not just an embarrassment but also may mean the termination of the celebration itself. Mary just knew she had to step in.
Mary, as the mother of the 30-year-old Jesus, also feels for his coming of age, of his personal growth. She continues to nurture him into the fullness of his identity, as she would later accompany him even beyond the crucifixion up to his glorious resurrection and ascension. But for now, she coaxes him into claiming his more than human identity. He has already gathered some of his disciples and they are also with him and his mother at the wedding. It is time to move on in claiming his identity as the Christ. Sure enough, John noted that they begin to believe in his glory upon witnessing his first miracle, his initial sign and wonder in his public ministry.
Aside from motherhood to Jesus, John presents Mary as the new Eve, who ushers in new life. Jesus addresses her in a seemingly very impersonal way, “woman.” But this ties up with the ‘woman’ banished from the Garden of Eden, and to the “woman” at the foot of the cross to whom Jesus entrusts his beloved disciple and her to his care. The ‘woman’ then becomes the mother of all His followers including us today. “Taken up to heaven (Mary) she did not lay aside this saving office (her motherhood) but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home.” (Lumen Gentium Ch 8 # 62)
“In the public life of Jesus, Mary appears prominently, at the very beginning when at the marriage feast of Cana, moved with pity, she brought about by her intercession the beginning of miracles of Jesus the Messiah.” (Lumen Gentium Ch 8 # 58). With Mary’s intercession, our human needfulness turns into opportunities for grace, into opportunities for Jesus to fulfill his messianic mission. The miracle at Cana, the Second Mystery of the Mysteries of Light of the Holy Rosary, shows that nothing is trivial for God. If it matters to us, it matters to Him.
From changing water into wine, we know how the salvific ministry of Jesus Christ will bring Him to later turn wine into his Saving Blood, and then both mingled blood and water would flow from his side for our salvation.
Water that cleanses also nurtures into life. We now enjoy the saving water of Baptism as we are initiated into the life of God and become His children. Wine brings joy to the heart, as Psalm 104 says. But God wills that we do not only have joy but joy that lasts into eternity. So wine is turned into his most precious blood. The superior wine served at the wedding banquet prefigures the blood to be poured out so all may enjoy the heavenly banquet.
John’s account of the wedding banquet at Cana is so rich in meaning. How do all these symbols call us to grow in our life of faith today?
There is the call to be like Mary, the dutiful mother and intercessor for our human needs. Pope Francis once said, “if we are to ever look down at another, it should only be to stoop down to offer help.” How do another’s woes bring out the best in us? How are we even sensitive to another’s needfulness?
There is the call to be facilitators of the goodness like the servants at the banquet who obey the Lord at Mary’s bidding, “Do as he tells you.” In pouring water they were unknowingly filling the jars with exquisite wine! Obedience is truly service to the community. One good act indeed leads to another! A simple innocent act is transformed into an efficacious movement for grace to flow. God employs instruments to effect grace.
As Mary knows that her Son Jesus the Christ can help the needful situation, so too can we always intuit who can do what to remedy a needful situation. Sometimes we don’t even have to look beyond ourselves. A previously learned skill or discovered ability may just need to be summoned and employed.
On the other hand, what needfulness, what vulnerability, what fragility do we sense in our life? They are not reasons to sulk or distress about. They are spaces for God to fill, rooms for growth, doorways to welcome the manifestations of God into our lives.
Needs are the mother of inventions, it is said. But as we see, it’s not enough that necessities spur so-called innovations and advancements in science and technology. The challenge is to truly put all things at the service and for the good of all humanity and creation in general.
The contemporary Cistercian author Michael Casey in his book on Community Life, as Fr Joe pointed out yesterday, reminds that, “We become most fully what God intends us to be by becoming most fully and deeply united with those around us.”
Mary enjoins Jesus to step in. Jesus did and He did not just save the newlyweds from an impending embarrassment. In doing so, Jesus supported not just the celebration of a couple’s love but likewise the celebration of the life of the community, of a foreseeable promise of another generation, the continuance of the family line, of a clan. Jesus’ miraculous intervention upholds the joyful celebration of the assurance of the community’s future. This early in his public ministry, Jesus shows the way to pitch in in community building, in whatever way. He accompanies us in building up God’s family. He enjoins us to claim our place in His Mystical Body.