Back in 1988 an older cousin of mine got married. I had looked forward to this wedding and wedding reception for some time. So I bought a new pair of pants and a new blazer. And since it was the late eighties and the era of Miami Vice I tried to dress just like Don Johnson. For those of you who remember the eighties you can imagine what I looked like in my white pants and powder blue blazer. I cringe now. Thankfully there aren’t any photos that I know of.
My cousin Bill and his future wife Virginia had a beautiful wedding but they did something, at that point in time, that I don’t ever remember seeing at other weddings. Right after the vows and exchange of rings, while a woman sang Ave Maria they walked over to the side altar dedicated to Mary. And while the woman sang they prayed and placed a bouquet of roses on the altar. They had consecrated their marriage to Mary. Not only was Jesus an important part of their marriage, but Mary too, was an invited guest. Thirty-one years and eight kids later our Lord and his mother have been an important part of their lives.
Today in our Gospel we hear of the famous Wedding Feast at Cana. A marriage in the Middle East was always a time of great rejoicing. For the ceremony the bride was veiled from head to foot, because they veiled those who were to be cherished. And on the day of the marriage ceremony both partners fasted and confessed their sins in prayer. The ceremonies always began at twilight with the groom making his way to the bride’s house. Sometimes these wedding feasts lasted for seven days, but in the case of poorer people they probably only went for two days. Whatever was the case at Cana, at some point in the festivities the wine ran out. For the Middle Eastern couple this would have been very embarrassing, they would have been mortified to find out that the wine was gone. Not only were the Middle Eastern people known for their hospitality, but wine was also a symbol of God’s presence in their lives. What would it mean for this newly married couple to run out of wine? To run out of wine at the very beginning of their marriage.
One of the curious features of this marriage feast is that it wasn’t the head waiter, (whose business it was to serve the wine,) who noticed the short-age first, it was Mary who noted the shortage first (she always knows our needs even before we do). She then makes a simple prayer to her Son saying, “They have no wine.” Hidden in these words is not only the knowledge of her Divine Son’s power, but also an expression of her desire to fix a potentially embarrassing situation for the newly married couple. Perhaps the Blessed Mother had already seen Jesus work miracles in secret, although he hadn’t yet worked a single miracle in public.
Now there are two lessons from Cana that we can focus on, first God helps those who help themselves. Jesus could have produced wine out of noth-ing, as He had made the world out of nothing, but he asked the servants to fill the stone jars with water. We can’t expect God to transform us with-out our bringing something to be transformed. We may pray, “Lord help me overcome my evil habits, let me be pure in thought and word and deed.” But this prayer is no good unless we bring at least our own weak efforts. God will make us peaceful and happy but we have to bring our own weak water of feeble efforts. We can’t remain passive while waiting for God to act. We have to try. We have to work at it. Working with God is essential if we are to be his sons and daughters.
The second lesson from Cana is that Mary intercedes to gain for us what we need, sometimes without us always even knowing what we need. As we heard neither the headwaiter nor the diners knew that the wine was running out; therefore, they didn’t ask for help. In the same way we don’t always know what is best for our soul, and if we don’t know what is best, how can we put this in prayer? In his letter St. James writes, “You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly.” Even with Jesus sitting in their midst the people at the table didn’t know what they needed in order to keep the joy of the marriage feast. So Mary asks, making the prayer, “They have no wine.”
No one will ever call on Mary without being heard or without being led to her Son Jesus Christ. She knows our need, so we ask her to make them known to Jesus. We ask her to pray to Jesus for all our known and unknown needs.
Now just a few weeks ago we heard that Mary laid her “first born” in the manger. Some may ask does this mean that Mary was to have other chil-dren. The answer is yes, it did but not according to the flesh. Jesus was her only Son according to the flesh. But Mary was to have other children, not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. We are those children, we are her spiritual children. And just as she did at the wedding feast, she will present our needs to Jesus, sometimes even before we know of the need ourselves. Keep her always in your life.
Let us be great Saints,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley