Biblical Basics About Mother Mary

User’s Guide to Sunday, Jan. 16

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, ‘The Wedding Feast at Cana,’ 1819
Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, ‘The Wedding Feast at Cana,’ 1819 (photo: Public Domain / Public Domain)

Sunday, Jan. 16, is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-11.

In today’s Gospel passage of the Wedding Feast at Cana, there is a theological portrait of both Mother Mary and prayer. Let’s look at the Gospel along Marian lines:

The place that Mary has: The text says, “There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.”

A fascinating thing about these opening verses is that Mary almost seems to dominate the scene; the presence of Jesus is mentioned only secondarily. St. Thomas Aquinas notes that, at Cana, Mary acts as the “go-between” in arranging a mystical marriage. How many of us has Mary helped to find her Son and to find our place at the wedding feast of the Lamb? 

The prayer that Mary makes: The text says, “When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’”

Notice three qualities to her prayer:

Discernment: Mary notices the problem, probably even before the groom and bride do. Indeed, mothers often notice the needs of their children before they do. 

Diligence: Mary prays, rather than merely fretting, and she goes directly to her Son out of love for the couple. 

Deference: Mary does not tell Jesus what to do. She simply points out the need. Mary is not directive, as if to say, “Here is my solution for this problem.” Rather, she observes the problem and places it before her Son in confidence. 

The portrait of Mary: The text says, “Woman, how does this concern of yours affect me? … His mother said to the servers, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’” Notice three things about this brief dialogue:

The title of Mary: In the Johannine texts, Jesus always calls his Mother “Woman.” This is in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, which says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, while you strike at his heel.” Thus, Jesus is saying that Mary is this woman who was prophesied and that she is the “New Eve,” who says “Yes” to God in place of Eve’s “No.” 

The tenacity of Mary: Jesus’ wording seems to portray resistance. But Mary doesn’t appear to interpret it as resistance. Perhaps there was something in the tone of Jesus’ voice, or perhaps there was a look between them that resolved the tension and evoked Jesus’ sympathy for the situation. Whatever the case, Mary stays in conversation with Jesus. In this, we surely see her tenacity.

The trust of Mary: Mary does not hover or try to control or manipulate the outcome. She simply departs, telling the stewards, “Do whatever he tells you.” 

The power of Mary’s prayer: The text says that Jesus abundantly answered Mary’s prayer. If we do the math, we can estimate that Jesus produced almost 150 gallons of the best wine. Mary’s prayer and tenacity produced abundant results. The Catholic tradition regards Mary as a special intercessor with particular power, rooted in this passage. 

The product of Mary’s prayer: The text says, “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.”

Many began to believe in the Lord as a result of this miracle. This highlights Mary’s essential role: to lead many souls to a deeper union with her Son. She points to Jesus’ glory, and, having done so, she leaves us with this instruction: “Do whatever he tells you.”

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Walking on Water,” ca. 1890

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