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Homily: January 21, 2024

Fr. David St. John

The Wedding at Cana: John 2:1 ff

A man and his dog were walking along a beach. As they walked along, they met another man coming toward them. The other man showed an interest in his dog, so after talking for a few minutes, he had the dog show off for the stranger. He had him sit, speak, and shake. And then he said, “Watch this!” Then he tossed a piece of driftwood far out in the ocean. He told his dog to fetch. The dog ran on top of the water to fetch the piece of wood! His paws were the only part of him getting wet. After reaching the stick the dog came running back. Again he was running on top of the water! He dropped the stick at his master’s feet. The stranger was shaking his head in disbelief. He just stood there speechless. But the owner of the dog couldn’t take it anymore. He asked, “Well, aren’t you going to say something? What do think of him?” Finally the man responded, “I notice your dog can’t swim!”

Of course it seems crazy to think that someone could miss seeing something so impressive and focus on something far less impressive. Does that ever happen to us? Perhaps when it comes to Jesus’ miracles we are like that man. The Bible puts something amazing and supernatural right in front of us and we miss it. Or because we have heard about them many times and read about them many times we discount the miracles as not being all that important. We acknowledge that Jesus did them. But we miss their meaning.

In the Gospel Lesson for this Sunday, we heard about the first miracle that Jesus performed.

We are at a wedding in Cana of Galilee that Jesus, along with his mother and the disciples, is attending. At this wedding, however, the couple runs out of wine to serve their guests. Running out of wine for one’s guests was a serious embarrassment. It was a great cause of shame for the couple because this lack of wine implied that they did not have enough money to serve the people they had invited. In other words, this was an impending disaster for the whole family.


By the way, notice that our reading begins with the statement that this was “on the 3rd day”. That would make it Tuesday, based on the Hebrew week which began on Sunday. The “3rd day” was chosen as the wedding day in ancient Judaism because it was only on the 3rd day of creation that God said “It was good” twice (in Genesis 1 verses 10 and 12). The day was considered by the Hebrew people to be twice blessed. Also, practically speaking, Tuesday was a perfect day for their weddings which gave the guests time to get there after the Sabbath and remain for the several days of the wedding feast. 

When the wedding couple ran out of wine, Mary was the first to notice. So she turned to the one person she knew could help: that would be her son, Jesus. 

When Mary turned to Jesus and told him the couple had run out of wine, Jesus responded: “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

Have you ever wondered why he said that? To our modern English-speaking ears it may sound a little harsh, like he’s rebuking his mother. But based on Mary’s response, we know this is not the case. She received his response in a positive light, telling the waiters nearby:

“Do whatever he tells you.”

Jesus immediately fulfilled her request, and He did so with great abundance!

So that leaves us with the question, what is the meaning of these seemingly harsh words?

Jesus responded by addressing his mother as “woman.” 

Men, try that with your mother or your wife!

Try saying: “Woman! When will dinner be ready?”

Or: “How was your day, woman?”

Not a good idea.

In the Bible, there is no mention of a son addressing his mother as “woman.” Jesus calls other people “woman,” like the woman at the well and Mary Magdalene, but this is the first time we’ve seen it attributed to a mother. Jesus must have had a woman in mind - perhaps a woman like Eve. 

In Genesis 3:15, there is the very first prophecy of the Messiah, when God is speaking to the devil after the fall. God said:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

So when Jesus called Mary “woman,” it was a title of great honor, recognizing Mary as the new Eve; the woman that will bear the Messiah into the world. This, by the way, is also why Mary is often depicted with a snake under her foot, to reflect this prophecy. 

After this response to Mary, Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come.” This theme of the “hour” is meant to reflect the hour of Christ’s Passion: his suffering and death. We can see this in John 12:27, when Jesus spoke about his death after entering Jerusalem. He said:

“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.”

But the most important key to understanding this response is found in the very middle of these two phrases. 

Jesus asked Mary the question, “What is this to you and to me?”  In Greek, it is “ti emoi kai soi.”  The Greek very closely and accurately reflects the Aramaic idiom Jesus used - meaning, “What do we have in common if I do this?” This phrase describes two people looking at the same thing, but with different perspectives. So when Mary came to Jesus saying “They have no wine!” Jesus explained to Mary, that the need for more wine meant one thing to her, but to Jesus, it meant something else. 

I think the Passion Translation of the Bible gets is right, and makes this all very clear. It reads as follows:

Mary asked, “They have no wine. Can’t you do something about it?”

Jesus replied, “My dear one, don’t you understand that if I do this, it won’t change anything for you, but it will change everything for me! My hour of unveiling my power has not yet come.”

Mary viewed providing more wine as a compassionate act of love towards the couple. But, it would change her very little.

Jesus, on the other hand, knew that if he provided more wine, this would be the first miracle he had ever performed. This would be the beginning of his public ministry, and it would be the beginning of His road to the cross.

Mary knew for thirty years what would come once Jesus started his ministry. In the temple, when Jesus was just a baby, the prophet Simeon told her that once Jesus’ ministry started, he’d be hated, misunderstood, and killed. Even more, she knew for thirty years that her heart would be pierced with a sword as he suffers the agony of his Passion. 

This is recorded in Chapter 2 of Luke’s Gospel:

Simeon took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”And Joseph and Jesus’ mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”


And then, even with this full knowledge of what this miracle would mean for Jesus and for her, Mary still said “Yes!” She continued without hesitation, turning to the waiters, saying:

“Do whatever he tells you.”

Mary launched Jesus into his ministry, knowing that at that moment she was letting go of her son. 

What would you have done in this situation? Would you have been able to say “yes” just as Mary did, not even thinking about what it may cost you?

Let’s pray that we can better imitate Mary’s response every day, saying “yes” to whatever the Lord asks of us, even if it leads to our own cross. 

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