Quite by coincidence, I think, about ten days ago I received a question from one of our former parishioners about the relationship between today's Gospel and the one read last Sunday. You will recall that when Mary and Joseph found the twelve year old Jesus in the Temple, he parried their complaint about his disappearance with the question: "Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" But, yet today He answers His mother, "My hour has not yet come." Our friend wanted to know whether or not there was some sort of contradiction between St. John and St. Luke.
Rather than a contradiction, in this we see our Lord allowing Himself to be restricted by all of the limitations of those whom He had come to redeem. Though He was God, He was also man, and He allowed Himself to be subjected to all of the difficulties that people must go through in life.
As a twelve year old boy, He was just slightly too young to be recognized as a man in Jewish society. The following year, He would read publicly from the Torah in the synagogue, and take His place as a young adult. At twelve His business was to be a student, allowing His human nature to learn in a human way the things that were necessary for His public preaching. And, indeed, He would be "about His Father's business" as a student of human ways for a number of years to come. Like many ancient cultures, Jewish society judged a man's wisdom by his beard. He might be an adult at thirteen, but He had no beard at all. By twenty His beard would be grown in, but even in ten years it would lack the gray hairs of wisdom. So our Lord had to bide His time doing "His Father's business" learning about the people whom He came to redeem.
In today's Gospel our Lord is roughly 30 years of age. He has learned a great deal about His people, studied the Scriptures, and learned what it is like to earn one's bread by the sweat of His brow. He has received the Baptism of John the Baptist, and has recruited some followers for His public mission. Having human nature and being a man, He envisions going with His disciples to Galilee, where they will have a few months to plan and practice what they would do. (Men tend to make their plans in the indefinite future.) Certainly, no harm in taking a few days off to attend a pleasant celebration with old friends who had just married.
So we encounter our Lord in Cana, a town in the region of Galilee, in the north of Israel, somewhere west of the sea that feeds the Jordan river. Mary, His mother is there, and it is she that notices that the supply of wine is dangerously low. Jewish wedding parties went on for several days at that time, and it would be a major embarrassment for the bridal couple to be unable to further entertain their friends. Now, note how Mary offers the perfect counterpart to our Lord's human nature. The men at the party would probably just find somewhere else to go -- "there's plenty of wine somewhere else." But Mary is concerned for the couple -- concerned that nothing should spoil the joy of their wedding. And Mary, being a woman, plans in the here-and-now. To herself she says: "In another ten minutes these poor people will have their party spoiled -- we can't wait six months for gray hairs to grow in your beard!" But to Jesus, her Son, she simply says "They have no wine."
Of course, He puts up a token of resistance: "What is this to you and me? My time has not yet come." But Mary, being Mary, and knowing that He has been "about His Father's business" all these years -- and being a woman in the here-and-now rather than in the indefinite-future of graying beards -- just tells the waiters to do whatever HHe tells them. And, of course we know that Jesus being the loving Son of His mother, changed six rather large water pots into wine -- and at that, the best wine they have ever tasted.
It is easy for a preacher to focus on this picture of Jesus' first miracle -- because it is His first, and because it is a pleasant story with a happy ending. And certainly no priest will ever tire of pointing out to you that this is precisely the way to approach Jesus; that is, by approaching Mary who is both His mother and our mother, knowing that she will know our needs even before we know them, and that she will place them before her Son in the same way she did in Cana of Galilee.
Let us not overlook today's Epistle, though, in our enthusiasm. It is not hard to see the lesson of Cana in this letter to the Romans. We must be "about the business" of God the Father, ministering, giving, teaching, exhorting, and so forth; fervent in zeal and hating what is evil; being patient and persevering in prayer. But inextricably bound up with doing the business of the Father is this need for being at peace and doing good for those around us. This "constant mutual charity" is simply part of loving God. We become Christ-like and Mary-like when we share each other's needs and practice hospitality.
On this day our Lord begins His public life -- a little bit earlier than planned, perhaps -- or, perhaps, on time because Mary was part of the plan. Over the course of the year we will hear about our Lord's public life and many more miracles, probably all of them more spectacular than today's. But let us never forget the example of personal concern set by Mary, and the opportunity to approach her as our own Mother. Let us not forget that the great miracle of our redemption started out with this small act of kindness.
2. Gospel: John ii: 1-11 http://www.drbo.org/x/d?b=drb&bk=50&ch=2&l=1#x
3. Romans xii: 6-16 http://www.drbo.org/x/d?b=drb&bk=52&ch=12&l=6#x