Saturday, January 7, 2017

Mary at a Wedding: Symbol of the Human Desire for Joy

Scriptural Meditation for January 7, 2017, Christmas Weekday
1 John 5.14-21
John 2.1-11

One would expect the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry to be solemn, serious, positively regal, or at least well planned and evincing fairly clear divine intentionality. However, the Gospel, as it always does, surprises us. The miracle at Cana, which inaugurates this great phase in the history of salvation, involves no blood, no fire and brimstone, seemingly no mention of serious matters. Rather, the evangelist places us at a wedding between two unnamed friends of Jesus’ family and his new Galilean friends. The situation is strikingly mundane, easy to understand: given that there is a wedding, celebration and mirth are to be expected, with milling about, bustling activity – human beings doing what they ought to do on such a festive occasion.
            However, Mary, proving herself sensitive and observant – basically a good guest – is stricken upon realizing the predicament of the married couple: there is no wine! How awkward! Embarrassing, even! How will the celebration gather up steam, how will people enjoy themselves as deeply as they are supposed to, without wine?
            And so Mary realizes that this situation places a necessity on her son to act. As the spokesperson of this poor couple and their guests, Mary is a symbol of the human desire for joy. How fitting that, for all things that ensue in John’s gospel – confusion at Jesus’ seeming mandate to cannibalism, raising of dead folks, and dread encounters with sinners like the woman at the well – the specific sign chosen by the Father to announce Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation happens at a wedding, that joyous event which we can understand so well. Furthermore, the moment of this inaugural manifestation of the divine glory was not even planned by Jesus himself, but was performed at the bidding of his mother. This beginning of Jesus’ public life clarifies the end: that it is intended to bring about joy, and that everything he says and does is subordinate to this intention.
           Meditation for me today centers on Mary’s humanity, on her sensitivity and compassion for her friends in this quite mundane matter, but above all on her intimacy with her Son and her confidence that he would be moved by the plight of the wineless couple. As John says in the epistle for today: “We have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

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