My latest column at Today’s Catholic Women is on Our Lady of Mental Peace.  She’s a new favorite Mary of mine.

I’m also over at Faith & Family Live with “Turning to Mary for Comfort.”

This week’s Mary Moment Monday is inspired by a question a Facebook friend asked me recently.

I am writing to ask you your thoughts on last week’s Gospel where Mary asks Jesus to provide more wine for the guests at a wedding and Jesus responds by saying, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not come.”

For some reason, my heart is having a hard time with this response (seems harsh). I was thinking that perhaps Mary had some motherly insight that He perhaps is ready for the next step and she was planting the seed.

I can’t help but think of how my husband teases his mom. I’ve always seen him do this.  He and his siblings have a way of teasing her that is affectionate and gentle.  They’ll bring up old stories and get everyone laughing or they’ll rib her when she makes a mistake borne of a misunderstanding, forgetfulness, or just plain human nature.

When my husband teases his mom, he’s never being harsh.  He doesn’t ever want to hurt her.  He isn’t going for her throat or trying to get even or be clever.

Once, early in our dating, I pointed out how often she gets teased, especially when the whole gang is together.  He smiled and said, “It’s how she knows we love her.”

Over the years, I’ve seen this as a truth.  I’ve even started jumping in.

What I always have to remind myself is that we tease because we love, not for malice or to be cruel.

Rereading this Gospel passage and picturing Jesus and Mary at Cana, I pause for moment.

Picture them in Nazareth for the 30 years prior.  There had to be some teasing, some laughter, some poking.  I have no proof of this, but it seems to go hand-in-hand with family life.  In being fully human, there are plenty of opportunities to laugh and chuckle, to snort and hoot.

As much as Jesus and Mary loved each other, they had to share this intimate human experience of laughter.

Reading the Gospel with that thought as background, I see a bit of a twinkle in Jesus’ eye.  Maybe this is some sort of long-standing thing between them.  Maybe she’s been gently nudging Him for some time; maybe He’s been teasing her about this too.  Had He done something like this at home previously when they ran out of something?

John Paul II, in a general audience on the wedding at Cana, shares this (emphasis mine):

According to one interpretation, from the moment his mission begins Jesus seems to call into question the natural relationship of son to which his mother refers. The sentence, in the local parlance, is meant to stress a distance between the persons, by excluding a communion of life. This distance does not preclude respect and esteem, the term “woman” by which he addresses his Mother is used with a nuance that will recur in the conversations with the Canaanite woman (cf. Mt 15:28), the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:21), the adulteress (cf. Jn 8:10) and Mary Magdalene (cf. Jn 20:13), in contexts that show Jesus’ positive relationship with his female interlocutors.

With the expression: “O woman, what have you to do with me?”, Jesus intends to put Mary’s co-operation on the level of salvation which, by involving her faith and hope, requires her to go beyond her natural role of mother.

4. Of much greater import is the reason Jesus gives: “My hour has not yet come (Jn 2:4).

Some scholars who have studied this sacred text, following St Augustine’s interpretation, identify this “hour” with the Passion event. For others, instead, it refers to the first miracle in which the prophet of Nazareth’s messianic power would be revealed. Yet others hold that the sentence is interrogative and an extension of the question that precedes it: “What have you to do with me? Has my hour not yet come?”. Jesus gives Mary to understand that henceforth he no longer depends on her, but must take the initiative for doing his Father’s work. Then Mary docilely refrains from insisting with him and instead turns to the servants, telling them to obey him.

There’s a lot to glean from this passage of scripture (true of most of them, come to think of it).  When you read a passage in the Bible that bothers you or makes you pause, take it with you in your heart, pray with it, ponder it deeply.  Look at it from all angles and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your reflection.  Research it, ask for help, and pray some more.

Any thoughts on this? (I know I haven’t come close to giving a good answer!)

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  • First, Sarah Reinhard, thank you for being you and for sharing part of yourself with the world through your writing. I enjoy you immensely.

    Second, I always chuckle when I hear the diaologe of Jesus and his mother as well. The way he says “Woman” makes me very sure that while he loves his mother, he is also responding to his mother in the way many young people these days will say “Moooommmmmm” with a bit of an eye roll. Jesus was old enough to know his mother’s urgings were spot on, but he also knew that the wine needed to be delivered in the subtle way it was, not like some side show magic act. There is, in my opinion, a good reason why the reading ends with the head waiter complimenting the bridegroom on his choice to save the best wine for later. Not only is Jesus performing a miracle, but he is also offering a blessing to the new couple by passing along his graces. He could have clarified the situation that it was he that provided the wine versus the bridegroom, who actually ran out of wine.

    Jesus recognized that the true miracle wasn’t in turning water to wine, but it was in “paying it forward” to the bridegroom. It wasn’t Jesus’ time to come out as a miracle worker, but it was good time to show great love to fellow man. It just so happens that there was a tasteful (pun intended) miracle in the way his love was passed on.

    Mary knew that Jesus could help with the issue of the wine. But Jesus knew better that in ever dilemma, there is an opportunity for great grace. Jesus wasn’t responding to his mother with harshness at all the way I see it. I feel like he was being a bit of a teaser as Sarah suggests, but also gently telling her that he knew the wisdom of the situation better than she did.

    I am no theologian. I just was inspired reading this because I had thought a lot about last week’s gospel myself!

    • Jamie, thank YOU for your kind comment, and for the food for thought. I love where your thinking and pondering is leading…and I’m adding it to my mental shelf for my own internalizing. 🙂

  • Most protestants commentaries will point to this text as a reprimand. However when my husband preached on this some time ago, he noticed that although refering to your mother as woman would be considered disrespectful today, it is mostly used as a term of endearment in the new testement context. Also, maybe Jesus was wondering why it was any of their business that a wedding celebration had run out of wine, hence the question (paraphrased) “what does this have to do with us?”

    • Young Mom, I have also heard reflections along this line. Some of them lead to the fact that Mary was being compassionate, and it’s supporting of her love for each of us, that she would encourage Jesus in his first miracle and that it would be a miracle that blesses a couple as they begin their life together.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Great, as always, to have your comments! 🙂

  • Mark

    Sarah, this reflection really grabbed me. I seem to have the sense that I was always taught that everything in the bible was…well…biblical. Pronouncements, weighted words, stern looks, deep meanings. What you wrote, what the passage may also say, provides another possibility, one which is so real, human, loving, and yet so profound. Ok, I am overusing this lately but…WOW!

  • First, I’m no biblical scholar, just a former English major. 
    I look at the parallel interactions in the gospel. There are several parallels I find interesting.

    There is the humor aspect already mentioned.

    Also, look at how Jesus is redirecting Mary so that she continues to deepen her obedience to God, to perpetually abandon herself to do His will, rather than her own, and to call others to do the same. Born without sin, Mary still had to sublimate her own will as part of daily life.

    Finding Jesus in the temple, he responds in this way, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know I would be in my Father’s House?” but He obeys his parents by going back with them.

    In the first story, Jesus essentially is reminding Joseph and Mary of his Divinity, of what is to come.

    At Cana, Jesus responds again with what seems like a rebuke; but again follows through. Mary is the intermediary, she intercedes for the couple, for the family having the feast, and Jesus answers “yes.” despite the seemingly smallness of the request. So we are shown that we can ask of Jesus through Mary, even if what we need or think we need is little, big, or by some accounts, silly.

    In the second story, this is a wedding. There are many there, probably a Rabbi and other officials. Calling attention to Himself via a miracle would start people focusing on the miraculous, the wondrous, and not His words or the Love of His Father. My hour has not yet come, but Mary tells the servants to obey him. Their obedience to Him through Her is part of what allows Jesus to reveal himself at that feast.

    Mary comes at another point, and people tell Jesus his Mother and brothers and sisters are waiting for him and he asks, “Who are my brothers, mother…sister.” One imagines Mary waiting and listening as one amongst many rather than an honored guest, simply being in the presence of her son, but again choosing to allow herself to simply be a handmaiden to the Lord.

    Being the Mother of God may have been sinless, but it was not effortless. Loving infinitely, pouring one’s self out is a constant act of sublimation, of denying personal will and even sinless, that required effort, energy and persistence. Mary is our role model perfected, but part of that was her obedience throughout her life.

    The interior part of Mary is revealed by her responses to these moments that seem conflicting to our sensibilities. Often God’s requests/will seems contradictory to our sensibilities. Mary obeys. Obedience is only revealed when to not obey would seem reasonable as an alternative.

    My long winded two cents.

    • Wow, Sherry. It took me a few days to have enough working brain cells to read this, but I’m so glad you shared it. Mind if I quote you on this sometime soon?

      I love especially the part about how she’s sinless, but that her role was not effortless. I think, many times, I associate sinless with effortless, and in doing that, I forget much of what Mary has to teach me, where she has to lead me, how she can help me.

      • Sherry

        Thanks! I’m touched. I learn so much coming here. You’re such a scholar –my understanding is scatter shot and so I love coming here to gain a deeper grasp of things.

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