Like Luke’s account of Mary and Joseph finding Jesus in the Temple disputing with the doctors of the Law when he was twelve, today’s Gospel reading might leave us with the impression that the Lord was being a bit harsh with his Mother. In response to her plea that he do something to rectify the terrible faux pas of running out of wine during a wedding celebration, Jesus says, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).
In the Synoptic Gospels (i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus’s public ministry begins with his proclamation of the Gospel upon his emergence from the desert (see Matthew 4:12-17; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:14-21). According to these accounts, after his Baptism by John in the Jordan, he went into the wilderness for forty days. While there he prayed, fasted, and was tempted by the devil. In John’s Gospel, by contrast, his public ministry begins, at Mary’s prompting, with this miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana.
Last week we celebrated the Lord’s Baptism, this week, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear about Jesus the beginning of Lord’s public ministry according to the Gospel of John. Next week we will hear Luke’s account of the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. These three events constitute the first three of the Luminous Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Traditionally, the Rosary consisted of three sets of mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious. The Joyful mysteries of the Rosary bid us meditate on the events of Jesus’s birth. The Sorrowful mysteries provide us a way to contemplate his passion and death. The Glorious mysteries bring to mind his resurrection, ascension, and his abiding with us by means of the Holy Spirit, as well as a way to meditate on the Blessed Virgin’s Bodily Assumption and her Coronation as Queen of Heaven. Formerly, we meditated on the beginning and end of Christ's mortal life as well as on the mysteries arising from his Resurrection, skipping his life and ministry entirely.
It was Pope John Paul II who noticed that there was a gap in the mysteries of the Rosary. As a result, his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (The Rosary of the Virgin Mary), issued in October 2002- the month dedicated to the Rosary- John Paul II promulgated the Luminous mysteries, the “Mysteries of Light” (sec. 21). In order, these mysteries are: “(1) his Baptism in the Jordan, (2) his self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana, (3) his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion, (4) his Transfiguration... (5) his institution of the Eucharist...” (Ibid).
Jesus beginning his ministry at the prompting of his Mother as well as at a wedding are both very significant. If you read through all four Gospels as though they were one book, the last words the Virgin Mary speaks are the ones she speaks to “the servers” in our reading today: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Hearkening back to what likely struck you as the Lord’s terse words to his Mother, it is important to note that, like a good mother, she does not argue with her Son. She is confident that her concern will affect him. This is why she instructs the servers- and by extension, you and me- to do whatever the Lord instructs them to do.
As to the wedding, it is important to keep in mind that salvation begins with the wedding in the garden of Eden and will culminate with the Wedding of Feast of the Lamb (Genesis 2:21-25; Revelation 19:3-10). Reminiscent of the absence of any mysteries concerning the Lord’s life and ministry, we might well ask: What about in between the first and last weddings? As you no doubt heard over Advent, we live between the already, or the establishment of the reign of God, which began with the Incarnation of the Son of God, and the not yet of its full realization. The key to living the tension between the already and not yet of God’s reign is living as if God’s reign is fully established. Like the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Eucharist we are celebrating at this very moment is also a participation in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
The wedding feast in today’s Gospel is the beginning of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. The fine wine into which Jesus transforms the water “represents the revelation and wisdom [Jesus] brings from God” (Raymond Brown, Introduction to the New Testament, 340). The imagery of wine clearly points to “the messianic wedding feast” Pheme Perkins, “The Gospel According to John,” in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 954). The inauguration of God’s reign in John is very consonant with the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry as set forth in the Synoptic Gospels.
Let’s briefly preview next week’s Gospel, which is St Luke’s account of the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry. It occurs on a Sabbath when Jesus enters the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. He goes to the front and, reclining, the posture of teaching at that time in that culture, reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. The passage he reads is a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. His homily on this reading is very short. In both Greek and English, it consists of nine words: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
Being the model Christian disciple, Mary’s faith in Jesus is manifested in today’s Gospel both by her petition and her persistence. At this early stage of the Lord’s earthly ministry, the hour for his glorification has not yet come. According to the theology of the Gospel of John, Jesus’s glorification happened when he was nailed to the cross. Referring to his glorification elsewhere in John, the Lord said: “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32).
After the Wedding Feast at Cana, the next time Jesus’s Mother (who John never names) appears in John’s Gospel is along with the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the cross. It is then that Jesus, speaking to his Mother, says, “Woman, behold, your son” (John 19:26). Then, speaking to his Beloved Disciple, who stands in for all disciples, that is, for you and me, he says, “Behold, your mother” (John 19:27). In turn, pointing back to her son, the Blessed Virgin bids us, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).
What does Jesus tell us to do? Later in John’s Gospel, during his Last Supper Discourse, the Lord tells those gathered at table with him: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Looked at in the horizontal plane, that is, simply in the context of the narrative and not “theologically,” isn’t the Blessed Mother’s request for her Son to provide more wine for a wedding feast that has run dry a simple act of love for her neighbor? Always bearing this in mind, let’s never hesitate to make recourse to our Blessed Mother. We can be confident her request will affect the Lord. What does it mean to “affect” someone? It means to influence, act upon, or even change another. As her children, we refer to our Blessed Mother's response to our various pleas as “intercession.” To intercede means to intervene on behalf of another.
Inspired by this confidence, [we] I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, [our] mother; to thee do [we] come, before thee [we] stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not [our] petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer [us]