My Mama Done Told Me

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.

This post linked to the GRAND Social


Jen called me early Sunday morning, and she was very excited.

“I know you’re getting ready for church, but I just wanted to tell you that you are going to LOVE today’s readings,” she said. She knows me well.

I really did love all three of the readings.

First of all, the weeks following Easter Sunday, I enjoy the stories from the Acts of the Apostles. In fact, I like the stories so much that it makes me wonder why I don’t simply READ the Acts of the Apostles several times a year. It is my most sincere hope that I don’t get struck down by lightening generated by St. Paul, but I mostly enjoy reading about the time before Paul’s conversion. I love reading about the apostles’ enthusiasm right out of the box and St. Peter’s rather bungling ways. But in Sunday’s first reading, Peter is not bungling. He thumbs his nose at the Sanhedrin  when they tell the apostles that they must – they simply MUST – stop preaching about Jesus as they had been instructed. Peter tells them, “We must obey God rather than men.”

No bungling. As clear as a summer morning in the Rocky Mountains.

The second reading was from Revelation, but instead of being confusing, as I find most of the Book of Revelation, the message is clear: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. And perhaps I like this reading because as the lector reads the words, I hear Handel’s version of Worthy is the Lamb that was slain being sung in my head. Next to the Hallelujah Chorus, that is my favorite Chorus in Handel’s Messiah.

But actually, what grabbed Jen’s attention and to what she wanted me to pay attention was the St. John’s Gospel. It was actually kind of a two part gospel. The first part tells the story of a handful of the apostles going out fishing and having a terrible day. They caught nothing. Suddenly, a man on the shore suggests they cast the net again, which they do. This time, the net is so full of fish that it begins to break. All of a sudden, they realize the stranger was actually Jesus. (Well, actually, in John’s gospel, here’s how he puts it: So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. SO THE DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”

John refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved several times thoughout his gospel, and it always makes me laugh. Biblical scholars probably have theories about this; I, on the other hand, always want to slap him aside the head and tell him to have some humility. It’s the mom in me.

The second part of the gospel tells us that Jesus takes Peter aside (ahem, leaving THE DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED behind; just sayin’) and asks him three times, “Simon Peter, do you love me?” Three times Peter says yes, getting a bit crabbier each time. I always found it understandable that Peter got annoyed. At first glance, Jesus sounds needy.

Here’s where Jen’s phone call came in. The homilist at her Mass explained why he believes Jesus asked three times. In the Greek language, there are three words for “love.” One refers to intimate love such as that between spouses. The second refers to the love one has for a friend. That word is phileo. The third refers to a deep and profound love, such as the love God has for us. That word is agape. In the Greek interpretation of this gospel, Jesus uses the word agape. When Peter responds to Jesus’ question, he uses the word phileo. Jen’s homilist suggests that Jesus wanted Peter to promise that he loves Jesus with agape love. It is only when Peter feels agape love that he can truly follow Christ.

I think that Jesus asks me every day of my life, Kristine Rae, do you love me? I’m pretty sure my answer is pretty much what Peter said. Of course I love you. But is it phileo or agape?