The wedding feast of Cana is the third epiphany. Epiphany means manifestation or revelation. We have seen Jesus revealed with the Magi who recognized him as more than the Jewish messiah but a person of international importance. Last week we saw that at his Baptism the Faher and Holy Spirit proclaimed that he was of cosmic importance, indeed God himself. Today he reveals his glory so that we might share in it like the disciples and believe in him.
This is beautiful in itself but this is from John and there are more dimensions to explore. The most relevant for today is Mary.
Jesus’ treatment of Mary is, at least, off-putting. It is important to remember that John is speaking as an evangelist not a biographer. Referring to one’s mother as simply woman is unprecedented in Greek literature. The only other time it appears is also in John’s gospel when Jesus entrusts Mary to the beloved disciple. He continues his seemingly rude comments with “How does this concern of yours affect me.” His concern is to fulfill this Father’s will and experience his “hour. Jesus’ “hour” in John is the pascal mystery, his passion, death, resurrection, ascension and the sending of the spirit. Everything else is secondary.
Jesus’s response to her is usually translated as “My hour has not yet come” but her actions, telling the servants to follow whatever instructions Jesus might order make better sense if we translate this as a question” Has not my hour already come?”
Mary speaks for all of us here. There is more than saving the reputation of a young couple by physically feeding their guests. The image of being served wine till it was overflowing at a banquet is frequent in Jewish writing. It was a sign of the messiah. For John, Mary was speaking for all humanity by telling Jesus that we are thirsty, we are ready for him to begin, his hour has come.
God does not need our permission to save us, but he respects our freedom and historical reality. Mary’s call for his assistance is a sign that we know we need God and are ready drink what he has to offer us.
This is a significant moment of divine intervention, but it is not the only one. Because it is so clear we can learn much about God’s working within us.
This is MLK weekend. I usually read at least one of his major sermons and often the Letter from a Birmingham Jail to commemorate it. The last I find particularly important as it tells white clergymen that it was not their decision when the major move for civil rights would occur. That must be found within the Black community itself. God would speak from there. It is often said that MLK was prophet like Isaiah in our first reading or in his assassination a Christ figure. There is much truth in both images, but I see him as a Mary figure. He said to God we are thirsty, we are ready, come and feed us.
I am perhaps in the last generation that can remember the difference before and after the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. It is difficult to explain to younger people the dumb things I grew up believing. These would now be laughed at more than even pitied. The events of the last few years have shown that we are far from being a post racial society and have a long way to go but we will get there much quicker if we see it as God revealing his glory not simply our mastering political strategies and techniques.
. Having lived in the African American and African communities in Brooklyn and Queens for most of my adulthood basically everything I have seen that has benefited the people of these neighborhoods came from the Black Church. This includes housing, potable water, legible street signs and removal of lead paint. The two partial exceptions were Bishop Mugavero’s financial support of family housing in East New York in the early 80s and CCBQ continued development of Senior Housing in these communities.
This reflects the catholic teaching on subsidiarity that the institution closest to the people that can fulfill a need should do so. Agnostic community organizers would agree that only the Black Church was left and was the only game in town but there is another dimension which can be found in the lines which follow our reading today:
After this, he and his mother, (his) brothers, and his disciples went down to Capernaum and stayed there only a few days (Jn 2:12).
After this great epiphany, those who followed Jesus spent time with him and were straightened by him for the adventures to come.
Besides organizing with Black Churches, I also worshiped with both Protestant and Catholic congregations. They spent time with Jesus and when others lost focus or became tired, they praised God and organized the opposition.
St Paul today reminds us of spiritual gifts. They are still at work. I was in rooms when speaking in tongues broke out and then an hour later a solid strategy to improve water supply was developed. Our reading from Corinthians ends today with
But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.
The power of God is still infinite, his desire to help us beyond our understanding but his respect for our freedom is always active so we will always need a Mary or a Martin Luther King to show we wish the gifts he has to offer. In the Synod Pope Francis has given us the opportunity to follow Mary and MLK and our great spiritual forbears to show God we wish to go where he leads. He is ready and able to give us gifts beyond measure if we are willing to ask for them?