Sunday, January 16, 2011

Second Sunday after Epiphany

Romans 12:6-16 / John 2:1-11

And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to Me and to thee? My hour is not yet come.

It is always hard to hear a son refuse, even rebuke, however mildly, his own mother. Even when we know neither the son nor the mother, when both remain to us perfect strangers, our own natural piety towards our own mothers, however feeble and attenuated, rises up in protest against what seems to us a natural inversion of the order of things. When it occurs among the faithful, who have received from Sinai God's holy commandment Honor thy father and thy mother, our discomfort and indignation is even more inflamed. Should the rebuff proceed from someone we know, someone we love, we are nearly at a loss at what to do and say.

So, when Jesus, our life and our love, our Savior, Redeemer, Lover and Friend, refuses his mother's request for an intervention on behalf of the newly wedded couple of Cana and their guests, we simply are set adrift. That Jesus does in fact produce, one must suppose at his own initiative, the miraculous conversion of water to choice wine, and that the Virgin Mother appears none the worse for her having been refused by her Son, indeed that she unhesitatingly makes at once an act of faith and an evangelical appeal on his behalf — Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye. — likely does not remove from our ears and our hearts those words: Woman, what is that to Me and to thee?

St Augustine provides us with a helpful guide to understand this exchange between the Word Incarnate and his Virgin Mother. For Augustine, what Jesus wants us to recall, as also he wants his mother to recall, is that what he has taken from her, what he shares with us, is not that by which he performs miracles, for indeed his miracles all come from his divinity, which he receives from his Father. Rather, what comes from his mother, what he shares with us, is his capacity to suffer, his infirmity, his weakness. So, in refusing to perform a miracle at his mother's prompting, he was reminding her, and through her exhortation she in turn is reminding us, that whatever he does miraculously, it is not as the Son of the Virgin, but as the Son of the Most High, the Son of the Father.

At the same time, in his proffered explanation — My hour is not yet come. — Jesus points the Virgin away from Cana towards Jerusalem, towards Calvary. Augustine thus interprets the response of our Lord: When the hour of my Passion shall have come, then will I acknowledge you as my mother. In other words, the Motherhood of Mary is always already, from its very beginnings, bound up in the mystery of the Passion, and for her to know what it is to be mother is at its heart for her to gaze upon her Son, nailed to the Cross. It is at that mysterious moment, prefigured already in the miracle at Cana, when Jesus will, for the first time since the wedding feast, direct the Church in the person of the beloved disciple to recognize Mary as Mother, while even then directing her to see, not merely in his own person, but in the beloved disciple, and through him every one of the Christian faithful, as her Son.

This means, then, that our taking offense on behalf of the Virgin was misplaced. While we meant to defend her as our own mother, we can only recognize her as such to the extent that we have been conformed to the Lord, and Him crucified. As she is Mother of the Father's Son to the extent that she is the mother of his Passion, so she is our mother only to the extent that we share in that Passion. It is our drinking of the Cup of the Lord's suffering, which is also the New Wine of the wedding feast of the Lamb, prefigured already in the miraculous vintage of the wedding feast in Cana, that we can find in Mary our own Mother, and in so finding her, be made all the more prompt and glad to respond to her proclamation of the Gospel: Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye.

Monstra te esse matrem
sumat per te precem
qui pro nobis natus
tulit esse tuus.

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