2d Sunday of Ordinary Time
Jan. 14, 2001
John 2: 1-11
St. Joseph, Passaic, N.J.
FMA Provincialate, Haledon, N.J.
Plans for a Scouting weekend fell thru, and I didn’t have a Sunday Mass assignment. Here’s an old homily for this weekend’s readings.
“And Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2: 4).
|Ancient fragment depicting the wedding at Cana|
I suppose that I ought 1st to say something about the way Jesus addresses his mother here. “Woman” sounds impersonal and almost rude. He addresses her with the same word at the crucifixion when he entrusts her to the beloved disciple and the beloved disciple to her. In 1st-century Palestine this was a perfectly respectful way to speak to a woman in public, tho its use by a son to his mother is unique. By refraining from reference to their relationship, Jesus is showing us that what his Father wants of him—here or on Calvary—supersedes any family tie. In the Synoptic Gospels he makes the same point when he identifies his mother, brothers, and sisters with whoever does his Father’s will (Mark 3:31-35 + par.).
But let’s turn our attention to the substance of the conversation between Mary and her son. On the surface, she has simply pointed out to him a problem that has, somehow or other, come to her notice: “They have no wine” (2:3). She is not asking anything of him, explicitly. From her instruction to the waiters, tho—“Do whatever he tells you” (2:5)—it’s evident that her observation implied a request that Jesus do something.
Jesus’ reply is enigmatic. He says, nicely, “So what? It’s none of my business. My Father has other plans for me.” Jesus refers to “his hour,” the moment when he will be plainly revealed to Israel and to the world as their Savior. That hour is the time of his passion and resurrection—a single divine moment in which the Father will glorify him and he will redeem the world. That hour will be the supreme sign that God loves the world so much that he sent his only Son to be its Savior (cf. John 3:16).
Jesus can’t say all that to Mary at this wedding, and no gospel anywhere gives us any hint that she would have understood. He can only say, “My hour has not yet come”: doing something for this couple and their families and friends on this occasion is not how God wants me to reveal his love to Israel and the world. This we may understand to mean that God has a plan for our redemption, and we ought not to be asking him to deviate from it, to make an adjustment, just to make our lives a little smoother. God’s plan of redemption is not just the master plan of the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. It’s also the particulars by which he means to save each of us and bring us into the death and resurrection of Jesus. All our mundane, day-to-day concerns must be subordinated to God’s concerns. He has a plan for each of us—times and places and people and events—that he wishes to bring us to our own share in the “hour” of Jesus. Should we be asking God to alter his plan for us, as Mary seems to be doing (even if that’s not her specific intention)?
Yet Jesus evidently does accede to what Mary asks. She asks him to do something about the embarrassing situation the hosts of the wedding banquet are about to be in, and he does, performing “the beginning of his signs,” the beginning of the revelation of his glory as God’s only Son and the Savior of the world. Even if this wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, he’s flexible in how he goes about his Father’s work in the world—which is the work of our redemption. So, yes, we may ask God to alter his plan for us, provided that, like Mary, we keep ourselves subject to God’s ultimate will: “Do whatever he tells you.” When the waiters without question do what Jesus tells them, the precarious social situation is saved. Our precarious human situation, always in danger of being overpowered by the Evil One, will be saved, too, by the divine power of Jesus—when we “do whatever he tells” us.
“The beginning of his signs,” this miracle at the wedding feast of Cana, is a double sign. The 1st sign is the obvious one, the transformation of water into wine. Seeing this, “his disciples began to believe in him” (2:11). The external sign, the miracle, begins the internal stirrings of faith in what God is about to do for the world. It’s only the beginning. Thruout John’s gospel the disciples struggle to grow in faith, and even after the resurrection some are slow to believe. It’s in John that we read how the beloved disciple the Peter race to the empty tomb; the beloved disciples sees and believes, but nothing is said of Peter (20:1-9). And you know the story of Thomas (20:24-29).
The context, the wedding celebration, is the 2d part of the sign. Note the 1st reading today, wherein the prophet Isaiah uses the image of marriage as a sign of the intimate relationship between God and Israel: “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you” (62:5). This “beginning of his signs” is a sign of the intimate relationship God is forming with the human race thru the activity of Jesus—which, John makes clear, means thru “the hour” of Jesus, thru the inseparable passion and resurrection. The wine of Cana is a sacramental sign of the blood of Jesus that will be poured out for us on the cross. It is thru the cross of Jesus—his cross on Calvary and our participation in his cross in our own lives—that we become participants in the marriage feast of eternal life.