Fr. Roger J. Landry
Retreat given at Sacred Heart Retreat House
“Renewal at the School of Mary”
November 7-9, 2003
John 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
•In the new luminous mysteries of the Rosary, in which we enter the school of Mary to learn about her Son, Jesus, the Son who fully reveals us to ourselves, we enter with her into Cana in Galilee, which was a short distance from Nazareth.
•Cana is a very important stop on our Marian itinerary during this retreat.
•In it we learn much about the relationship between the adult Jesus and his mother, our mother.
•Most scholars call this the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, when he worked his first “miracle” or sign. And he did it at Mary’s behest.
•During this conference, we will focus on what happened at this most famous wedding that ever took place, because Jesus was there.
•I’ll break it up into five parts:
◦Mary’s bringing the need of the couple to Christ and her role as an intercessor
◦Christ’s response to Mary and what it means
◦Mary’s instruction to the servants
◦Christ’s miracle itself.
◦Christ’s role in marriage
II. Mary’s bringing the need of the couple to Christ and her role as an intercessor
•Jesus seems to have been invited to the celebration because of his mother. The text says that Jesus was “also” invited. It’s the only time in Sacred Scripture when Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is mentioned before her Son.
•Jewish weddings used to last eight days. For very poor families, they would last two. The typical Jew would only have one meal a day. But during a wedding feast, there were generally three meals a day, with food and wine flowing pretty continuously. This was a great celebration. No wonder why Jesus would have compared heaven to a wedding banquet!
•When Mary noticed that they had run out a wine, she went directly to her Son. She might have thought about going to the wine steward, to see if they had a surplus supply somewhere. She might have gone to the couple. But she went straight to Jesus.
•St. Josemaria commented, “In the middle of the rejoicing at the feast in Cana, only Mary notices that they are short of wine. A soul will notice even the smallest details of service if, like her, it is alive with a passion for helping its neighbour, for God.”
•She went to her son and said very simply, full of confidence, “They have no wine.” She just brought the fact to Jesus. She didn’t twist his arms. She had trust in him that he knew what he should do. It’s a great model of prayer, of course, for each of us. So often we try to persuade Jesus in our intercessory prayer. We can forget that Jesus loves those we love way more than we ever could. We can forget that he cares for them more than we do. We can forget that he knows what is best for them, whereas we often think we do, but really don’t. “They have no wine!” No long song and dance, a simple petition.
•St. Josemaria says, “Mary is a teacher of prayer. See how she asks her Son, at Cana. And how she insists, confidently, with perseverance. And how she succeeds. Learn from her” (Way 502).
•It’s also a clear example of her intercession. She acted, it seems, completely on her own. If there were no wine left, it’s probably because most of the others (perhaps even the wine steward who was responsible) were on the sauce and just weren’t paying attention. Yet she was. Her love was that great. She brought to Jesus another’s problem even before those people had any inkling.
•This can be a tremendously consoling thought that the Blessed Mother continues to bring to her Son our own needs before we’re even aware of it. She may be saying to her Son right now, “The one you love at Alhambra today needs your help.” “Your beloved needs some courage to go to you in Confession!” “The one for whom you died needs to hear your voice guiding her through this storm.” She’s paying attention and in her merciful, maternal love acting right now, during this conference. What a great consolation this is! What a great source of thanksgiving!
•Coming to those in need for Mary means bringing those needs within the radius of Christ’s saving power (RM 21). Mary is a mediatrix. She can point out to her Son the needs of mankind and intercede for them.
IIb. Mary’s continual intercession for us
•Mary’s maternal intercession continues for us now from heaven.
•We’re called to trust in her. After all, God the Father had entrusted to Mary his only Son, and we’re called to trust in her as well. (RM 39)
•Sometimes Protestants will say that Mary’s mediation gets in the way of Christ’s mediation and that Sacred Scripture says that Christ is the only mediator between God and Man. But Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ (1 Tim 2:5-6 — “for there is but one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all”), but shows its power. Her influence on men originates not in any inner necessity but in the disposition of God. It rests on Christ’s mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. It FOSTERS Christ’s immediate union.
•She intercedes for all her children and thereby cooperates in the saving work of her son. Her universal mediation shares, subordinately, in Christ’s universal mediation. (RM 40)
•Mary’s mediation is intimately linked with her motherhood. This distinguishes it from the mediation of other creatures, which is always subordinated to Christ’s. Christ wants us to bring others to him in prayer. Mary’s mediation on our behalf began with the Annunciation and fiat, with her being the mother of God.
•We should rely on this maternal intercession flowing from her maternal love. The Cure D’Ars says, “The Most Holy Virgin stands between her Son and us. The more we’re sinners, the more tender and compassionate she is to us. The child who is full of tears is the dearest to her heart. Doesn’t a mother always run to the weakest and most exposed of the children? A doctor in the hospital, doesn’t he pay more attention to those who are most sick?”
•And her mediation continues from heaven. Her motherhood in the order of grace didn’t stop with her Assumption and Coronation, but continues unwaveringly to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. She cares for the brethren of her Son in all their difficulties.
IIc. Making use of Mary’s maternal intercession as the saints have
•Our response to this great gift is to invoke the intercession, as the saints have.
•St. Jean Marie Vianney said, “Mary is so good that she never ceases to throw a look of compassion on the sinner. She always awaits our invoking her.”
•St. Josemaria constantly was invoking her and encouraging others to do so.
◦Mother! Call her again and again. She is listening, she sees you in danger perhaps, and with her Son’s grace she, your holy Mother Mary, offers you the refuge of her arms, the tenderness of her embrace. Call her, and you will find yourself with added strength for the new struggle.
◦Auxilium christianorum! — Help of Christians, says the litany of Loreto with confidence. Have you tried to repeat that aspiration in time of difficulty? If you do it with faith, with the tenderness of a daughter or a son, you will discover the power of the intercession of your Holy Mother Mary, who will lead you to victory.
◦Holy Mary is the Queen of peace, and thus the Church invokes her. So when your soul or your family are troubled, or things go wrong at work, in society or between nations, cry out to her without ceasing. Call to her by this title: Regina pacis, ora pro nobis — Queen of peace, pray for us.” Have you at least tried it when you have lost your calm? You will be surprised at its immediate effect.
◦It is indeed just that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit should crown the Blessed Virgin as Queen and Lady of all created things. You have to make use of her power. With the daring of a child join in this celebration in Heaven.
III. Christ’s response to Mary and what it means.
•Jesus responds to her, saying, “Woman, what is that to you and me? My hour has not yet come.”
•There is a lot of confusion about this passage and it’s worth clarifying briefly.
•Jesus’ use of the word “woman” to refer to his mother was not disrespectful, but was an explicit link back to Eve, because Mary was becoming the new Eve in God’s plan, the new mother of all the living.
•One gets the sense that Christ often used to use this expression toward his Mother, almost to remind her of who she was and would become. He would also use it for her from the Cross, to signify that she would be the mother of us all.
•We’ll go next to the expression, “My hour has not yet come,” because we will need it to understand the the question Jesus makes. In John’s Gospel, Jesus uses the word hour always to refer to the eschatological sign of the Cross, to the time appointed by the Father when the Son accomplishes his task and is to be glorified. By his saying, “My hour has not yet come,” Jesus is saying that the time for his public suffering has not yet arrived. Jesus is very conscious that once he starts working miracles, everything will change, he will become what we would call today a celebrity and that would start the process leading to his death. A miracle worked as a sign of His Divinity would be the beginning of his Death. The moment he showed himself before men as the Son of God, he would drawn down upon himself their hatred, for evil can tolerate mediocrity, but not supreme goodness. Jesus seemed to hesitate here, just like he did in Gethsemane. But he seemed to say, “not my will, but thine be done.” When he started on this new journey, Mary would likewise become the woman.
•“What is that to me and to you?” basically means, “how does that concern us?”
◦The important thing for the interpretation of what Christ is saying is his tone.
◦He could have said it as a declarative statement, as if he were saying, “That’s not our concern.” “It’s none of our business.”
◦But it seems more likely he was doing it interrogatively, opening Mary up to what doing such a thing would mean. “How does that concern us, if my hour has not come.” It’s almost as if Jesus were saying, “What do you want me to do about it, Ma, short of inaugurating my public ministry and all that that means.”
◦Mary certainly didn’t seem to take Jesus’ reply as a refusal. She turned to the servants and said, “Do whatever he tells you.” There must have been a very deep understanding between Jesus and his mother.
•Perhaps Mary had already seen Our Lord work many miracles in secret — although he had not yet worked a single one in public. Just as she had been the instrument for the sanctification of John the Baptist in his mother’s womb, so now, by her intercession, she sounded the trumpet for a long procession of miracles that continue down to our day.
IV. Mary’s instruction to the servants: Do whatever he tells you
•Mary turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you. This is Mary’s valedictory, the last time she speaks in Sacred Scripture. She seems already to have a relationship with them, such that they would follow her orders.
•She has confidence that her son will work the miracle she has asked, even though it means that it will inaugurate the final “hour” of his life.
•The mother of Christ presents herself as the spokeswoman of her son’s will, pointing out the things to be done so that the son’s will can be manifested. Jesus begins his hour thanks to Mary’s intercession and the servant’s obedience. (RM 21). Mary’s faith evokes this first “sign” and helps kindle the disciples’ faith.
•Mary’s language was evoking two important episodes in salvation history, which likely would not have been lost on Jesus:
◦The first occurred with the patriarch Joseph, who saved all of Egypt and his family from starving. We read in Gen. 41:55 “When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do.””
◦The second occurred after Moses proclaimed the ten commandments to the Jewish people. We read what their response was: Exod. 19:8 The people all answered as one: “Everything that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.
•Mary was evoking Joseph’s saving people from starving and God’s own law of love shown in the decalogue, confident, it seems, that Jesus would providently provide as he did through his representatives in the Old Testament.
•The Holy Father says that “doing whatever he tells” you summarizes the life of Mary, the teacher, as a disciple of the Lord. It’s a project of life based on the secure foundation of Jesus Christ. ( 3rd WYD) Her secret was always to say yes to Jesus, and that’s what she tells the servants.
•He adds, “Behind these words of Mary, she expressed the secret of her own life, which is a great “yes” to the Lord, full of joy and trust. Mary, full of grace, Immaculate Virgin, has lived her whole life in total openness to God, in perfect consonance with his will, even at the foot of the Cross. She never takes back her yes, because she had placed her life in the hands of God, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me as you say.” ( 3rd WYD).
•Listening to, trusting, Jesus is the only way to a deep sense of life and true happiness. ( 3rd WYD)
•We learn from Mary to listen to and follow the word of God, to stand close to the Lord, even though at times it can be costly.
V. Christ’s miracle
•We can mention briefly one thing that is very important about the miracle Jesus worked: Why did Jesus turn water into wine instead of creating wine from nothing?
•It’s because he wanted to involve human work in the miracle.
•Like with the feeding of the 5000 with the help of the young boy’s five loaves and two fish, so the Lord here involves the servants in his miracle.
•To get 180 gallons of water from a well would take a very long time, but the Lord would use their work to their glory.
•Their participation seemed to be zealous: “They filled them to the brim.”
•Jesus’ new wine, symbolic of the new covenant, was better than the Old.
•He did in Cana what he would not do in the desert. Satan had tempted him from death; Mary “tempted” him to death and Resurrection. Satan tried to lead him from the Cross; Mary toward it.
VI. Christ and Marriage
•The final point we can turn to is the relationship of Jesus with marriage.
•As he shows us in this seen, he is with couples. He is with spouses. He joins them.
•By his presence, he elevated marriage to the dignity of sacrament, an efficacious sign of his divine life.
•As a sacrament, marriage is meant to bring us to God, to bring us his divine life, to bring us ultimately heaven.
•That’s the most important thing about the sacrament of marriage.
•Young couples need to look at that as the most important characteristic in saying yes to someone as a spouse: “Is this person the best to bring me closer to God, closer to heaven?”
•Married couples need to see this as their principle duty in marriage, the mutual sanctification of spouses through the fulfillment of their vocation as a Christian man and woman, which involves the procreation and education of children, if God blesses the couple with them.
•To couples, for the sake of holiness, Mary would say, “Do whatever he tells you.”
•The result of this first of Jesus’ “signs” was that the disciples began to believe in him.
•John uses the word “sign” rather than “miracle,” because it points to something behind, that God is the long-awaited Messiah, blessed with God’s power, to inaugurate the new and eternal kingdom.
•Mary intercedes for us with her Son so that she can bring us, his disciples, to greater faith in him.
•St. John says that in working this miracle, “he revealed his glory.”
•Let us praise him for that glory with Mary his mother!