Fifteen years ago or so, a friend of mine got married in a Catholic ceremony that included a Mass. The Catholic Mass includes four bible readings — an Old Testament reading, an epistle (usually one of St. Paul’s letters), a psalm, and a gospel. For a wedding, the bride and groom select the readings from those approved for a wedding Mass by the Powers That Be within the Catholic Church. One of the choices for the gospel is St. John’s telling of Jesus’s first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana.
“I would never EVER choose that reading,” my friend said, who was looking to me to help her make her selection. “I hate the way Jesus calls his mother Woman.”
Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come. — John, 2:4
While I must admit that hearing Jesus refer to his mother as Woman always grated on my nerves (and I, too, selected a different gospel reading for my own wedding), I figured that when Jesus called his mother Woman, he was not trying to be mean and macho; instead, I figured it was the translation of Greek into English that caused our consternation. Apparently, I was correct. In New Testament Greek, Woman was the word used to mean Dear One.
Jesus was both human and divine. From the gospels and the letters of St. Paul, we know quite a bit about divine Jesus, the son of God. We know almost nothing about Jesus the Human, and absolutely nothing about Jesus the Human after around age 12 until he was 30. I have always been so intrigued about Jesus the Human. In fact, should I ever be blessed enough to make it to the Pearly Gates, I want to request a brief meeting with God to find out why the secrecy.
Anyway, because of this, two things have always struck me about that gospel. More than reading about Christ’s first miracle in which he turned water into the most delicious wine ever (think Chateau de Beaucastel Hommage Jacques Perrin Chateauneuf-du-Pape), I was always pleased that though Jesus was not yet ready to go public, he OBEYED HIS MOTHER. What’s more, she full-well knew he would. That’s why despite his push-back (after which she must have thought, “we’ll have a conversation about that a bit later.”), she immediately went to the waiters and told them to do whatever her son tells them to do, no matter how stupid it seems. They do, and the rest is history.
But here’s my second reaction: Jesus knew what lay ahead for him. And the gospels about his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane demonstrate that he was really scared about what he was about to face, and for good reason.
He had to be terrified not only about his imminent torture and death, but also about what was to come that would eventually save us all from sin. Not just the final few days, but the days and weeks and months and years of preaching and listening to people complain and receiving adulation and being ridiculed and wearing out sandals from walking and enduring doubt and betrayal by his friends.
Because of this, I can’t help but think that Jesus’s reaction to his mother’s request was in part his reluctance and fear about the future, and his desire to put it all off for as long as he could. Up until the time that he performed that miracle he was leading a life of quiet anonymity with his mother, and now, that was about to change.
My hour has not yet come. Please Mom, don’t make me begin my mission yet.
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