Jesus and his mother Mary were at a wedding feast at Cana (as recorded in John 2). There is what seems to us a tense interaction between them. Mary observes that they have no more wine. And Jesus says to her, Woman, how does this concern of yours affect me? My hour has not yet come.  (Jn 2:4).

To modern English ears this response of Jesus seems terse and off-putting. Is Jesus annoyed by his mother’s request?  A little study of culture reveals that his repsonse ot his mother is not disrespectful but is in fact a sign of respect and readiness to comply with her request. In order to understand this we need to look at the cultural context of Jesus’ remark.

In the first place Jesus is using a Jewish expression as he speaks to his mother. The English translation we use at Mass renders it rather poorly. The Greek text of the Jewish expression is τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί (ti emoi kai soi) which is literally rendered: "What to me and to thee?"  What this expression does it to denote a relationship between the one who is asking and the one who is asked. In effect it is something that someone says when they are reluctant to do what the asker wants but,  based on their respect for the one who asks,  they agree to do it. Maybe the closest English expression is, "What is that between friends?"  or  "You don’t even have to ask!"

So in this interaction between Jesus and Mary we DOnote some reluctance on Jesus’ part for his hour had not yet come. And yet, because it is his mother who asks he does it. After stating his reluctance he says,"But what is that betweeen you and me?"  Mary clearly takes it as an affirmation not a rebuke for she never misses a beat and turns right to the steward and says, "Do whatever he tells you" (jn 2:5).

There are other occurrences of this Jewish expression in the Old Testament. For example in Genesis 23 Sarah had just died and Abraham wanted to bury her in Hebron in the Cave of Machpelah. But the Hittites were in possession of the Land. So Abraham offers to buy the cave from them. The King of the Hittites holds Abraham in high regard and wants to give him the cave for free. But Abraham insists on buying. After further attempts to give it to him fro free, the King of the Hittites reluctantly agrees to sell it to Abraham and utters the phrase, "if you insist on buying it, what it that between you and me (ἐμοῦ καὶ σοῦ τί) and he accepts the money (Gen 23:15). Again, note the pattern, a request is made that a person is reluctant to do, but, based on their respect and relationship with the one requesting, they agree to do it. If you wish, there are other occurrences of this phrase (e.g. 2 Kings 3:13 & Mark 5:7 inter al) which you can consult.

So, in the end it is clear that Jesus IS a bit hesitant at his Mother’s request but out of respect for the fact that it is she who is asking he works the miracle. Far from disrepecting her  he is actually indicating respect for her in a tender way that acknowledges that she is his mother and that this fact will make him reconsider and ultimately reject his reluctance. Hence we seem on good grounds for concluding to the power of Mary’s intercession!

UPDATE: In the post above I presented the theory of Dr. Scott Hahn et al in reference to the expression ti emoi kai soi. In discussions with some of you especially Bain (see comments) I am compelled to doubt this explanation. I guess the best we can do with understanding this interaction is that something of a cultural or interpersonal nature eludes us. Mary does seems to act as if Jesus answered affirmatively. Jesus own actions inficate his affirmative response. Perhaps he reconsidered. Perhaps Mary gave him a look only a mother can give. Perhaps our understanding of the Jewish expression is too limited to grasp the nuances of it in this instance and his answer was affirmative from the start. One lesson is clear, Mary interceds and Jesus, even if reluctantly, acceeds to her request. This teaches us to  persevere in prayer.

 

76 Responses

  1. Marc Aupiais says:

    Wow- beautiful!

  2. CastingCrown says:

    I had always seen the title of “woman” in the passage as a part of seeing Mary as the New Eve.

  3. Nick says:

    The reluctance on Jesus’ part to do a miracle really shows His humility. He doesn’t want to appear like a show off, but at the same time He must obey His Mother. His reluctance also shows His love and compassion: He’s like a husband who’s won over by his wife’s love (“Well, alright, honey, I’ll do it”) and He’s like a father who puts his children’s concerns over his reputation (“I might get embarrassed, but the kids will be happy”). I can also see a fulfilled messianic prophesy at the wedding: Jesus has come to bring God’s banquet and new wine to the world.

  4. Jimmy Brunet says:

    Thanks for opening up that passage as thoroughly as you have. Awesome

  5. Blake Helgoth says:

    Thank you Msgr. for the post. There is so much that is misunderstood about the Wedding Feast pericope. I almost cringe when it comes up in the gosple cycle. When I was doing my undergrauate theology, I became very interested in the meaning of it all. I came across a book, I am shure you have heard of it, Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant by Ignace de La Potterie. For those who do not know of Ignace de la Potterrie, he was one of the greatest scripture scholars around Died in 2003). The entire pericope is like a Gosple in miniture. St. John even says that this was when the Apostles belived in Jesus for the first time (Jn 2:11) It gets really good when one starts asking, “who are the bride and bridegroom?” “With all the things John could have written about, why include such a passage about a wedding feast?”

  6. Mike says:

    Scott Hahn’s book Hail Holy Queen also has a wonderful explanation of the translation issue noted here, and includes other aspects of Jewish traditions and Biblical connections to this event. Of particular note is Dr. Hahn’s discussion of the Queen Mother and her role as intercessor for petitioners to the king. I really welcome Monsignor Pope’s discussion on this topic.

  7. Grandpa: Tom says:

    Whatsoever he saith unto you,do it (Jn. 2:5). These are Mary’s last recorded words in the Gospel of St. John. There are “seven” words just like Jesus Christ’s last sentence contained “seven words” (Into your hands I commend my spirit; Luke 23:24). Those words Mary spoke are good advise for each of us to learn how to be obedient to Jesus. Thank you Msgr. for the article which is enlightening.

  8. Carl says:

    I’m sure you’ve got it right, but I kind like Father Benedict’s take on it. He his perfect Jewish accent he says: “She just turned away from Him and said to the stewards ‘Just do what he tells you’.”

  9. JB says:

    This should not even be a matter for debate. John never refers to himself or Mary by their first name because, by the time he started writing, the persecution against Christians had become aggressive. Disrespect? Phooey. John just didn’t want to “name names” in his gospel. After all, he would up in prison because of his faith – and in even in revelation refers to a “woman” in Rev. 12, not Mary, nor the Mother of Jesus.

    http://kingofages.wordpress.com/

    • JB says:

      I don’t think this position stands at odds with Monsignor Pope’s exegesis.

      • Your exgesis is interesting though not mainstream. The more usual explanation is that John intends for you and me to see ourselves in the figures of the gospel who stand not only for themselves but for others. As for the title Woman the usual explanation is that John is emphasizing that Mary is the fulfillment of Gen 3:15. At any rate none of these theories are de fide and we are free to speculate in such matters.

      • JB says:

        “The more usual explanation is that John intends for you and me to see ourselves in the figures of the gospel who stand not only for themselves but for others.”

        I remember that from my Johannine class. Perhaps I look at it more form a literal or historical level rather than a moral level.

  10. Loreen Lee says:

    “who are the bride and bridegroom?” “With all the things John could have written about, why include such a passage about a wedding feast? (end of quote from above) This almost gets ‘scary’. I can think of two others examples where the comment by the priest had a similar effect. One was when Mary and his ‘brethren’ came to get him while he was with His people, and he pointed out to her that all of them were his brethren. (Sorry I haven’t got correct quote here). He becomes more explicit when on the Cross he says Mother behold thy son, and son behold thy mother, to John. The priest pointed this out to us. The second one is when a woman speaking to Jesus wishes that he could thank his mother for His Birth, and Jesus answers something like ‘Better all those who do, (or keep?) the word; the priest pointing out that this again speaks of Mary as holder, of The Word, (or something). What I find interesting, is that unlike poetry, there is a direct relevance. You said in an earlier blog that scripture was performative and transformative. Could this mean on these examples, like performative in the philosophical sense, eg. I now pronounce you man and wife, but by saying these things, Christ, or whoever is saying them, is actually bringing the reality into being, (performative) and also transforming the being of the people. Thus Mary at Cannae does more than merely ‘set the scene’ for the first miracle performed in the ministry proper; but something deeper is happening, and if we could ‘connect’ all of these ‘happenings’, we would see the performative and transformative percursors of what is to happen later, even perhaps the establishment of the Church, which would make it appropriate that the bride and bridegroom are not explicitly named, (as individuals) for the context would be much broader. Like I said, this is scary. Please don’t publish if I’m off the deep-end. I do that sometimes. Like with the bridge. But it makes you wonder, especially as we look to the old testament for prophetic, if not performative and transformative ‘ratios’, in the scripture. At base, I am asking, am I understanding what you meant by these words, performaive, and transformative?

    • To say that the Word of God is perfomative and not just informative means that it warries with it the power to do what it announces. So when God says “Be holy” we are by that fact assured that the grace exists for us to actually become holy. To say that the Word is performative means that if we really take God up on his offer and begin to live what his word says it actually becomes so. One day in heave we will actually be fully holy, fully perfect for the word of the Lord has spoken it.

  11. Bender says:

    Sorry JB, but I think we should give John a little more credit than being too scared of retribution if he “named names.” All of the other Apostles willingly endured martydom, some rather horrifically. That it never happened to him does not mean that he ran away from it. After all, he, alone amongst the Apostles, stood under the Cross.

    Besides, there is a better and theologically deeper reason for both Jesus and John to refer to Mary as “Woman.”

    • JB says:

      This has nothing to with giving John credit. John never names himself in the Gospel of John: he is “the disciple” or “the beloved disciple.” Mary is NEVER mentioned by name in John because Mary was entrusted to John’s care, so traditionally she went to Asia Minor with John, where, in fact, John wrote Revelation.

      John 2: 3 “the mother of Jesus”
      John 2:4 “woman, how does your concern affect me?”
      John 19:27 “”woman, behold your son. Then he said to the disciple, “behold your mother”
      Revelation 12: 1 “a great sign appeared in the sky; a woman clothed with the sun…”

      John is too smart to name the mother of Jesus in the midst of a persecution. He has class, he’s not stupid.

  12. jan says:

    I’ve been reading “The Cultural World of Jesus” by John J. Pilch. What he says is that, first, the relationship between mothers and sons born in that time developed a very close relationship, with the mothers spoiling the sons because of their intrinsic value to the family and society. As the sons came of age and assumed their place in society, they then broke the strong ties with their mothers as they became men.

    Jesus may have been surprised by His mother’s request, but I can’t see Him being put off by it – even if He was assuming His rightful place as a man, as the author suggests as one possiblity. I do think that He probably was just waiting for the time to come to ‘show Himself’ and that his mother provided the opportunity.

    In light of that, since culturally, only close relatives were invited to weddings, it’s likely that Jesus and Mary were relatives of some degree to the wedding party. An unrelated person would have been hesitant to interfere, but it would have been acceptible for a family member to do so. Thus, the stage is set for Jesus to perform His first miracle.

    • Loreen Lee says:

      The priest today in his homily on this pointed out that Jewish Wedding feasts were open to the public generally, provided you were properly clothed etc. There is another scriptural passage in which people are refused because they are not clothed, (admission to heaven?) but I don’t know Scripture well enough to quote. His point was that Catholicism was open to all, (nations and people, etc.) and that the reason they ran out of wine, might likely have been that many people came. He did not speak of the possible rebuke. (Thanks Msgr. for your comments here, but there’s also the transformative element, unless we ‘transform’ ourselves because of the ‘performative’ power of God’s message. I wonder, with regard to the rebuke, that if there is some speech practices which traditionally place the rebuke before the ‘explanation’, that if we think of the explanation as being the teleological purpose of Being in the Time of Jesus, i.e. this marriage as the hallmark of the final Day of Celebration, if that is a possible positive conception of The Last Judgment, that by saying these words, Jesus is taking the context into a higher level. With this assumption, further analysis of the ‘rebuke’ would proceed logically, and possibly could be interpretated, (although in agreement with Msgr. Pope’s examples, not as a rebuke, but even more than respect, as a kind of compliment, (as agreement) with (on a higher plane) an announcement (by Word?) of the Future (Time?) (Does Mary, The Woman announce The Word?) Apologies if needed. My friends are often at me, not to be so much ‘in my head’, and to get grounded. I wonder why!!!! Also, at Mass today, noticed that the reading from Isiah was in perfect accord with the New Testament Gospel. Is prophecy then , (and the Old Testament generally) also to be regarded as prefiguring by way of Performative Speech (although perhaps not transformative.) Am beginning bible study, on Tuesday, again) (In poetry, by the way the metaphor MAY simply be held as an idea, with no intent or purpose,(conscious, and prefigured) to ‘transform, etc.’ although this CAN happen, (by accident?) i.e. we can make a life-change, if we are spiritually affected by the artwork! But your explanation opens the door for the possibility as given by God, which may be the necessary, or transformative element. Just my speculation!!!! This is great because you can check back to see how the argument is shaping up, and with this knowledge by all of us, there is such a great opening for dialogue and debate.

      • jan says:

        I don’t know enough about Jewish wedding customs during the time of Christ to argue the point, but it seems to me that your priest is making an allegorical comparison here? I don’t believe the wedding at Cana was meant to be a parable to show that all are invited to be Catholic; rather, it was a historical event. In fact, that comparison would seem to discount the miracle which is the central tenet of the story.

      • Loreen Lee says:

        His point was the question of why Jesus chose the Wedding context for his first miracle, and did not begin his Ministry at say the Synagogue. That the Church is inclusive was a point he drew from the conjecture; that granted, I don’t think the priest was analogical in his thinking. If anything, this is my propensity, not his. But I maintain that there seems to be some significance in the presence of the water to wine, as the presence of water at baptism, of the bread and wine at the first Eucharist, and then of course, of the water and blood which streamed from his side when the soldier pierced his Body on the Cross. These are real, and not just linguistic transformations. And my understanding is that Msgr Pope is attempting to explain to me the difference between informative (historical?) and performative speech. I think in all of these instances there is analogical thinking, which ‘raises’ if I may use the word, the significance and meaning, out of the historical context, possibly as means of suggesting the ‘eternal’. Is there another way to accomplish this, considering the limitations of language, than to use metaphor or better, parable. Analogy is necessary, even in the creation of new words, to attain a public presentation of our thoughts, intuitions, and feelings, which are of a personal, and therefore theoretically, because they are personal, incapable of being expressed explicitly within language as public discourse. On the rebuke issue, I just can’t picture Christ rebuking his mother. I would assume a better relation between them than one that could invoke rebuke. Therefore I believe that the words were said within the context of a deep understanding between them. I check out all the biblical references,mentioned here though, and yes it is ‘hour’. not ‘time’. But I originally thought of hour as referring to his whole ministerial life. Perhaps he was a bit hesitant to start and his mother got him going; but this is purely a conjecture/projection of my own experiences. I look to scripture for more universal edifications; not to substantiate my personal ‘quirks’, for the Catholic is what speaks towards and for Personal unity, with/through/and in HIm, does it not? So I fail in this most often too. But – will keep working on it!

      • Loreen Lee says:

        Dear Jan. Since your comment I have not been able to leave this alone. Perhaps I’m obsessing, but the reality of a wedding, and Christ as Bridegroom is such a dominant theme in Christian orthodoxy, that there must be some explanation for the apparent (or actual) rebuke. I am thinking here not of the legalistic and actual words spoken, but of what they could possibly MEAN,i.e. their significance with respect to Church teaching. Legalism vs. the poetic if you will, for want of words. And I do believe it’s not necessarily what you say, (what words) but the meaning in those words that we generally look for. Could not what is nominally a rebuke, also be interpreted then, as a clarification instead. We witness at mass, that we ‘lift ourselves, (our spirit) up’. That would be part of it, and the transforming element through the performative action of these words could perhaps be doing just that. In other words, could not Jesus be confirming with his mother, Our Mother, the Mother of the church, that the secular aspect of the wine is not of concern to them. But that there was possibly a higher purpose in what the Blessed Virgin was saying. That the hour was not yet come, could also be interpreted in that, at that moment it was recognition that as He spoke His hour had not come. But that changed immediately, for but a moment later that moment of fact (history) was changed,(into an ‘eternal’ demarcation, when the Blessed Virgin took the initiative, while still acknowledging the fact in speech that her Christ Child had just spoken of. It was now Now. The hour had come. “We know not the hour”, as we await his Return. If what the priest in a previous mass said, that Mary, Mother of God, is substantiated as the carrier of the Word, she would be giving Him earthly permission as Mother, to pass over into his Ministry. Well I’ve said it. I’m not a theologian. Just a ‘mad’ philosopher, and schizophrenic, so called, to boot, but hey! Joan of Arc heard voices, and I never have. So you explain the labels. Perhaps you can do better with me, on that job, than I have just tried to do in giving a ‘lifted up’ interpretation of the Marriage Feast. Thanks for bearing with me. Just thought I’d speak out, to get this puzzle out of the immediacy of unshared experience. Thank you. God bless. (And thank you Msgr Pope for helping me with the philosophic quandary on the meaning of terms. )

  13. Rose Oxford says:

    Thank you so much ! I had no idea how beautiful this passage was before I read your explanation. God bless you.

  14. Bender says:

    Jesus may have been surprised by His mother’s request, but I can’t see Him being put off by it

    There is also the fact that Jesus is a master teacher. And, as such, He utilized a variety of teaching methods. He often would be a bit provocative, and on more than one occasion, it appears that He is playing “devil’s advocate,” so to speak. That is, appearing to take the opposite view in order to draw out the right response.

  15. Bender says:

    On a slightly different note –

    I’ve noticed before, Monsignor, that you have posted clips from the movie “The Gospel of John.”
    Thank you for not doing so in this instance. It is a really good movie, but Mary is WAY too old, distractingly so.

    • :-) You are right benderthe Mary of the Gospel of John is a bit old. Do ou dislike that movie in general or just this aspect?

      • Bender says:

        Oh no, Monsignor — there are a few tiny little things to quibble about*, but on the whole, I think it is an excellent presentation.

        * Mary is too old
        the Samaritan woman at the well smiles a bit too much
        I noticed Mary Magdalene seated in the background amongst the men at the synagogue during one teaching by Jesus (at that time, the sexes were strictly separated)

      • Bender says:

        Besides, I’ve been spoiled by the beautiful Olivia Hussey’s portrayal of Mary in Jesus of Nazareth. And, of course, Maia Morgenstern is not only lovely in The Passion of the Christ (and age appropriate), but she gives such a loving and heartwrenching performance.

  16. Bain Wellington says:

    It does not seem to me that the phrase “ti emoi kai soi” has been adequately explained here.

    The negotiation between Abraham and Ephron over the purchase price of a plot of land for Sarah’s tomb (Gen.23, esp. at v. 15) is not in point because the phrase there is “ana meson emou kai sou ti an eiÄ“ touto?”, which is not at all comparable to the colloquialism under discussion.

    As you say, Mgr. Pope, Ephron’s remark occurs when he finally agrees to make the sale. It is equivalent to his saying “don’t let [a sum of money] come between us”.

    The problem with “ti emoi kai soi” is that it occurs either –

    (a) in situations that are actually (the widow and Elijah, 1K.17:18; the Gerasene demoniac, Mk.5:7=Lk.8:28 cf. Mk.1:24; etc.) or potentially (Jephtha’s embassy to the King of the Ammonites, Jg.11:12) full of conflict, or

    (b) in situations where a request is being turned down (King David’s rebuke to the sons of Zeruiah, 2Sam.16:10; Elisha’s rebuke to King Joram, 2K.3:13).

    In the Johannine pericope, the colloquialism quite clearly serves to refuse the request. It absolutely does not mean that the request is being reluctantly granted, let alone that it was unnecessary for the Blessed Virgin even to ask. The notes in the NAB under Jn.2:4 make this very clear. We have to try to make sense of the refusal, not try to convert a refusal into a (reluctant) concession.

    Peace

    • How does your understanding account for the actions of both Mary who seems to take it as an affirmation and to Jesus who abundantly grants the request to the tune of 150 gallons?

      I will grant that in the expression indicates tension and can be ambiguous. I think the two texts which most indicate the understanding I am advancing are the Genesis 23 text and the Mark 5 text In the case of the Gardarene demoniac, the demon realizes that he must reluctantanly grant the will of Jesus and thus shows a kind of respect though clearly a “respect” we would hope is not reflective of the respect Jesus had for Mary :-) . In terms of the Genesis 23 text it seems that Gen 23 emou kai sou ti is comparable to ti emoi kai soi.

      • Bain Wellington says:

        The scholarly consensus (so far as I can judge it) appears to be that the remark “ti emoi kai soi” is not ambiguous despite its having shades of meaning ranging from abrupt/hostile to diffident. In every case, it constitutes a refusal:-

        see, for example, Arndt & Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon of NT (s.v. “ego”, last entry) and the notes under Jn.2:4 in the New Jerusalem Bible (1994) and in the St. Joseph’s study edition of the NAB (1991).

        The note in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary (1989, at chapter 61:41) is more tentative on the parallel between the koine idiom and the comparable Hebraistic phrase, but it agrees that the Hebraism “carries overtones of refusal or at least unwillingness to get involved”. Some kind of a “no”, therefore. But a “no” all the same.

        I can only repeat that the entirely different phrase in Gen.23:15 (“ana meson emou kai sou ti” – the genitives follow “meson”, “in between you and me”) is not comparable in any way with the extremely common usage of the dativus commodi et incommodi (dative of advantage or disadvantage). Something more than your personal say-so is called for on this particular point, I suggest ☺.

        Nor can what demoniacs are reported as saying (Mt.8:29; Mk.1:24, 5:7; Lk.8:28) assist us in understanding this exchange between Our Lord and His mother.

        The request was initially refused; but the Blessed Virgin – while not pre-empting a change of heart by her Divine Son – made allowances for the possibility that He would see things her way. He had, after all, been living as a child and young adult in her house for 30 years, so her knowledge of Him was intimate. For this reason, she is the great intercessor with her Divine Son.

        Peace.

    • Ok Bain,

      I think you have made a good point here and am prone to reject what I had been taught. I appreciate your correction. Perhaps all we can say here is that somehow Mary did not experience it as a refusal and that thre are other cultural or interpersonal dimensions here that allude us. Again thanks. By the Way Scott Hahn in one of the sources of the theory I proposed, but I am am more compelled by what you have presented.

      • Bain Wellington says:

        That is very gracious of you, Monsignor, but I don’t claim any credit – it wasn’t a personal insight. Thanks for the reference to your source, btw, and I will try to look it out.

        Peace.

  17. Bain Wellington says:

    The message of the pericope, surely, is that Our Lord initially refused point blank to work a miracle in favour of friends, or at that particular time. The intercession of the Blessed Virgin, however, was ultimately effective – and not by virtue of any outright request on her part. It is, rather, a luminous example of heart speaking to heart, and the outcome was that Our Lord, at His Mother’s prompting, consented to manifest His glory for the first time in circumstances which drew the faith of His disciples (Jn.2:11).

    We arrive, then, at the same conclusion, but the surpassing efficacy of the Mother of God as an intercessor can only be enhanced by reading the colloquialism in its true sense as a firm refusal.

    • Are you not reading into the passage here. Your scenario is possible but not really supported by the text. Rather you seem to surmise some sort of look or non verbal cor ad cor. Surely possible but only a speculation.

  18. Jane M says:

    What I have wondered about has to do with Jesus saying his hour has not yet come. People always seem to say it refers to that moment — that Jesus isn’t ready to perform miracles but then he “gives in”. But in other places his “hour” is the hour of his death when he doesn’t perform a miracle though he could. He dies.

    So to me Jesus is saying to his mother, go ahead and ask, this isn’t the moment when I won’t answer. And I even wonder, totally speculatively, whether he had done things like this water-into-wine for Mary in the past. That’s why she says, do whatever he tells you. It works both literally and spiritually — but as I say I made that part up.

    • Hour surely refers to his passion. You probably know that but then the debate begins as to what he exactly means here. In the second Cana post I include a video which explore the “hour” from one point of view.

  19. Tony Layne says:

    This may be a little off-topic, but I noticed that the phrase “ti emoi kai soi can be contrasted with Jesus’ response to Peter in John 21:22: “If I desire [John] to stay until I come, what is that to you [ti pros se]?” Am I right in thinking that this expression is harsher, equivalent to a suggestion to “mind his own business”?

  20. Hal Barton says:

    You are wrong: The Greek may or may not suggest what you say concerning Christs words – but it is a holy dictate of the faith that when there are disagreements with versions of the Bible, the Latin Vulgate must be the one that prevails – and the Latin makes it clear, and Jesus makes it clear to his mother – something like this: Mother you are in service to my Father, but my time has not yet come. When the time set by my Father is just exactly perfect then I will assist you. He said this so that we seekers in the future would not be rushed into service before we were totally prepared – as Jesus says, “when a King is coming with 20,000 troops, one must sit down for as long as it takes, and carefully reckon whether or not to go to war or make terms of peace.” Jesus was ready because He was divinely prepared, but we who must follow in His footsteps are here to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (phil; 2,12) – this is why Jesus says the sometimes we must act like we hate our mother and father even though we love them. {no Mom and Dad! I’m not ready yet} God must be served first for He is our perfect parent.

    • Well, Hal I cannot absolutely say your interpretation is wrong but it seems a bit of a stretch. As you can see from these comments there are a lot of possible theories and explanations. I won’t say your has no merit but it just seems to overlook the obvious point that Jesus does the miracle requested.

  21. Hal Barton says:

    Well, as concerning above, maybe I have not made myself clear – but this passage of our Lord’s words from luke will make it clear: “4:26. If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
    14:27. And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

    14:28. For which of you, having a mind to build a tower, doth not first sit down and reckon the charges that are necessary, whether he have wherewithal to finish it:

    14:29. Lest, after he hath laid the foundation and is not able to finish it, all that see it begin to mock him,

    14:30. Saying: This man began to build and was not able to finish.

    14:31. Or, what king, about to go to make war against another king, doth not first sit down and think whether he be able, with ten thousand, to meet him that, with twenty thousand,
    cometh against him?

    14:32. Or else, while the other is yet afar off, sending an embassy, he desireth conditions of peace.

  22. Henry Vanden Brook says:

    Isn’t this just a symbol of the Gospel?

    I thought maybe we were the stone jars (genetically formed dust). Then we got filled with water (blood). Then we were converted spiritually by the washing of the Word (water to wine symbolically). But we don’t have our spiritual bodies yet . . . – - – because it’s not Jesus time yet. When his time begins, aren’t we supposed to meet him in the sky and be transformed into what we are going to be in the twinkling of an eye?

    Isn’t Mary kind of ‘in on it’ with Jesus. Doesn’t she ‘know something’ special. Didn’t she tell the servants to obey Jesus (the Gospel of believe and obey Him). I think she knew full well from her earlier experiences who Jesus was and had a good idea of what was going on. I just think she might have thought Jesus was going to do a little more at that point in time, and she was just a couple thousand years ahead. I think He was just politely saying ‘I know what you’re thinking, and you are on the right track, I’m about to initiate the next phase of the Father’s will. But not quite to the extent you are thinking.’

    I think she had had many similar conversations with her Son and readily realized what he was saying. I don’t think there was a negative rebuke in the least. Mom and Son had just had another mentally intimate moment, and they decided to share it with us for our own good.

    John just got done telling us that Jesus is God and everything was made by Him and through Him. He built our bodies/temples for God (stone jars), then we get filled with water (blood), then converted and cleaned (wine), then, didn’t happen yet, not his time yet, raised from the dead and given our spiritual bodies.

    In the very next paragraphs, without missing a heartbeat, Jesus goes into the physical temple (OT: the place where he will meet with us) that some say symbolizes Him and some say symbolizes us. He cleanses it by kicking out evil. He quotes the scripture that “his zeal for his Father’s house will consume him”, which to me means he is working with zeal both then and now to do his Father’s will. And when the ‘Temple Priests’ ask him for his authority to do what he did, clean the temple, He says ‘tear down This Temple and I will rebuild it in three days’. He was totally focusing on his Father’s will and plan from the beginning of the section ‘the wedding’ to the end of the section ‘cleaning and rebuilding (converting) the temple’. He didn’t need to clean himself of evil or convert himself. He was literally already clean, literally already full of the Father, literally already in the temple, literally already doing the Father’s work.

    Though He was the first to die and be raised, which was partially meant to give us hope, like Paul said, he wasn’t gaining a new spiritual body, like us. He instead had to become incarnate to become propitiation (acceptable sacrifice) because of the decree (“The sole that sins shall surely die.”) The whole thing was for us.

    Anyway, that’s kind of always been my take on it. I don’t believe that if Mary or Jesus had ever rebuked each other that it would have been published. I think there would have been too many opportunities for God to take it out before Augustine and the other bishops got around to canonizing the scripture.

    I think Mary got it right, and then pronounced it; “Do whatever He says.” And the good servants did.

    • A rather interesting interpretation to be sure on us being the stone water jars etc. Such an interpretation might make for good homiliy material if the preacher made it clear he was allowing the passage to be allegory. Historically I don’t think that this is what John has in mind and the theory would not likelytand the test of biblical scholarship, such as mine did not.

  23. Blake Helgoth says:

    There is so much more going on here than just a story about Mary’s intercessory role. St. Thomas Aquinas says that the pericope is about the wedding on Man (in the person of Mary) to God. More questions to encourage a deeper reading – Why is there so much wine? What does wine symbolize in John’s Gospel? Is this not about Mary as the Mediatrix of grace?

    • Yes, I am familiar with Thomas on this. Also that, at the foot of the cross she represents Eve who was spouse to Adam. I will say it is difficult to have Mary be both Mother and Bride in my mind. I am not saying it is not so, just that it is difficult. it’s kinda like biblica shape shifiting!

      • Blake Helgoth says:

        I thought so as well at first. But, when you think of St. Catherine of Siena and Theresa of Avila both having mystical marriages to Jesus, then it is not so weird. Hers is a mystical marriage and it makes sense since St. John uses the marriage image so much to his Gospel and in the Book of Revelation.

  24. Stanley Ekwugha says:

    Another important word there is “gune” meaning woman. It may sound degrading but in Jewish backgorund, that is the highest title with which a female can be addressed. Hence, Gal 4.4 describes Jesus as being born of a woman.

    • Yeah there are debates here too. Some argue that it would be OK for a son to call his mother Woman, others emphatically argue no, it would be most unusual and borderline disrespectful. AH culture, it is hard to recreate the First Century some 2000 years later !

  25. Peter MWABA says:

    Well analysed.
    Kindly set thought clear from the inerpretation ofn the Protestants: Is beer drinking a sin? this verse is interpreted as Jesus having made a unique wine which helps people grow spiritually?

    Warm Regards,
    Peter

    • I think the theory of some Protestants that this is a “special” or non-alchololic wine, a sort of “grape juice” are fanciful at best and a reading into the text at worst. IOW it is their acquired aversion to alcohol that “requires” them to reject Christ making real wine and ordinary wine in abundance. It is true the text calls it the best wine but in the end wine is wine and words mean things.

  26. Grandpa: Tom says:

    Thought I would share a couple of interesting points. The wedding lasted 7 days, the wine ran out on the 7th day. The best wine was served last, and could be a prelude to the turning wine to sacred blood. Anyway I have part of a poem (author unknown) concerning the water to wine:
    When the Lord, God looked at the water, the shame-faced water saw the face of their creator God, who breathed life into all things, and “blushed, and became wine.”

  27. Hal Barton says:

    Hal Barton’s post of Jan.17th would appreciate SOME sort of response since he thinks he aced it to the Max! Isn’t there someone out there that would dare disagree or agree? Here it is again: Hal Barton says:
    January 17, 2010 at 2:16 am
    You are wrong: The Greek may or may not suggest what you say concerning Christs words – but it is a holy dictate of the faith that when there are disagreements with versions of the Bible, the Latin Vulgate must be the one that prevails – and the Latin makes it clear, and Jesus makes it clear to his mother – something like this: Mother you are in service to my Father, but my time has not yet come. When the time set by my Father is just exactly perfect then I will assist you. He said this so that we seekers in the future would not be rushed into service before we were totally prepared – as Jesus says, “when a King is coming with 20,000 troops, one must sit down for as long as it takes, and carefully reckon whether or not to go to war or make terms of peace.” Jesus was ready because He was divinely prepared, but we who must follow in His footsteps are here to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (phil; 2,12) – this is why Jesus says the sometimes we must act like we hate our mother and father even though we love them. {no Mom and Dad! I’m not ready yet} God must be served first for He is our perfect parent.

    Reply
    Hal Barton says:
    January 17, 2010 at 2:29 am
    Well, as concerning above, maybe I have not made myself clear – but this passage of our Lord’s words from luke will make it clear: “4:26. If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
    14:27. And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

    14:28. For which of you, having a mind to build a tower, doth not first sit down and reckon the charges that are necessary, whether he have wherewithal to finish it:

    14:29. Lest, after he hath laid the foundation and is not able to finish it, all that see it begin to mock him,

    14:30. Saying: This man began to build and was not able to finish.

    14:31. Or, what king, about to go to make war against another king, doth not first sit down and think whether he be able, with ten thousand, to meet him that, with twenty thousand,
    cometh against him?

    14:32. Or else, while the other is yet afar off, sending an embassy, he desireth conditions of peace.

  28. Cynthia BC says:

    LOL at “Perhaps Mary gave [Jesus] a look only a mother could give.”

    If Christ could be quelled into compliance by a mother’s glare, perhaps I can hope the same for my daughter.

  29. jedesto says:

    Some 50 or 60 ears ago, someone, I have forgotten who it was, called wine, “water in excelsis.” Nice, don’t you think?

  30. Donna says:

    “My hour has not yet come.”

    Mary was born without original sin. She never did anything outside the will of God. Jesus knew it. Her simple request, “They have no wine”, along with what surely was a raised motherly brow, was enough to signal to Jesus that now was the time.

  31. Stephan Sydor says:

    We should not forget that before creation, God the Father chose Mary to be the Mother of Jesus: therefore, her every thought, word, and deed is free from rebuke; besides, Jesus wouldn’t even think of rebuking his
    mother. He is saying, “Mom. my hour has not yet come; but because I love you, OUR hour has come.” But
    wouldn’t it be something to have just a sip of the best wine in the world?

  32. Loreen Lee says:

    Just a thought, as I read this. “They have no wine” – “They are without You”. (Your Body and Blood!!) Just a thought. Please excuse. (But He does give Abundantly!!!!)

  33. randall says:

    There is an excellent book titled Unafraid by Francine Rivers. In the book, she attempts to fill in the gaps that are not explicitly detailed in the Gospels by presenting a Gospel from the perspective of Mary. She writes that the wedding was for a relative named Jacob, and that Mary was concerned that the bridegroom would be ridiculed if he ran out of wine. So in order to help their relative save face, Mary turned to Jesus for help. Mary wept with tears of joy when Jesus performed the miracle because it was at that point she figured Jesus would be revelaed as the Messiah and rise to great glory among her people; the moment she had waited for since Gabriel first spoke to her. Boy was she in for a great surprise that strained every fiber of her faith.
    It is of course a fictional story, but it does give one something to ponder.

  34. sUE says:

    This passage has always intrigued me since it speaks of the shared life of Mary and Jesus. Mary knew Jesus could turn water into wine–had he been practicing in private at home? No disrepect intended…

  35. mike says:

    I was once at a seminar given by a priest in which he talked about a messianic prophecy, about which both Jesus and Mary would surely have known as devout Jews, which was fulfilled in some way by the wedding at Cana. Please forgive that I don’t remember any of the details, but the implication was that both Jesus and Mary knew what was going on, and essentially Mary was prompting Jesus to follow the script he was supposed to. Even His initial refusal was part of the script, and it wasn’t just the miracle that revealed Jesus as the Messiah, but the whole situation. Anyone else know this angle (and maybe know more details?)

  36. BrianG says:

    Wondering why the wine ran out, I too think it was because of the extra guests.
    The wedding party probably expected Jesus to turn up, but his arrival with another twelve men, some of them husky fishermen would not have been in their calculating the amount of wine needed.

  37. Mischa says:

    In the first place Jesus is using a Jewish expression as he speaks to his mother. The English translation we use at Mass renders it rather poorly. The Greek text of the Jewish expression is τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί (ti emoi kai soi) which is literally rendered: "What to me and to thee?" What this expression does it to denote a relationship between the one who is asking and the one who is asked. In effect it is something that someone says when they are reluctant to do what the asker wants but, based on their respect for the one who asks, they agree to do it. Maybe the closest English expression is, "What is that between friends?" or "You don’t even have to ask!"

    So in this interaction between Jesus and Mary we DOnote some reluctance on Jesus’ part for his hour had not yet come. And yet, because it is his mother who asks he does it. After stating his reluctance he says,"But what is that betweeen you and me?" Mary clearly takes it as an affirmation not a rebuke for she never misses a beat and turns right to the steward and says, "Do whatever he tells you" (jn 2:5).

    I really like this deeper explanation. It brings into focus that Jesus is pointing out that he is a different gender than his mother. The first step along the spiritual path for a man and a woman are different. Jesus was well educated in the scriptures and rituals of the Jewish faith and knew this. This is why he balks at the prospect of what his mother Mary is asking. Is it not true that priests are consecrated and nuns are married as the first act of true spiritual commitment?

    It seems to me that we are seeing this event between Mother and Son happening on the fringes of this celebration. So, this miracle is done in secret and orchestrated by Mary. The governor, who seems to be a local dignitary, does not know who provided the wine. Only the servants who helped with the transformation, know who really provided the wine. So, Jesus is not part of the nuptials, but it is he who provided the wine.

    I speculate that what gets Jesus to submit to his mother’s will is the fact that verse three states that Jesus and his disciples are “called” to the wedding. Jesus himself states he has not been called to the ultimate sacrifice, yet. I speculate that Mary said, “But you were called to this.”

    I believe there is a very significant spiritual event going on here. The opening words of the chapter state, “On the third day.” The closing line states that all who witnessed the transformation believed. This is the same literary format for The Passion.

    Like the story of Jacob’s ladder. The angels or spiritual development both ascends and descends the ladder of God.

  38. Fatima says:

    Msgr,

    I’d love to include this icon in the worship aid for my wedding liturgy. Could you direct me as to how I can do so while respecting copyrights? Or is this image under public domain?

    Thanks!

  39. Tom says:

    Ive always thought of this scripture as a realistically humorous anecdote. What son hasn’t had a moment of enjoyment interrupted by a chore from his mother? What son hasn’t responded with a “really mom? Right now??” And what mother who knows her son will obey her wouldn’t ignore the grumbling and carry on as if she never heard it?

    A more realistic realistic example of a mother-son relationship in scripture is difficult to find.

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