Sunday, January 20, 2019

Mother Know's Best

Today’s gospel lectionary reading is a very familiar tale. It’s the story of a wedding (John 2:1-11). I love to go to wedding. It is always such happy occasions. A time of joy and celebration, full of promise for the next stage of life being embarked on. 

This wedding was in Cana of Galilee. I have blogged about this particular wedding before. I make no apologies for doing so again as I feel this is a key text in the gospels. It is particularly important for any starting a journey into the study of feminist theology and the role of women in the scriptures.

The story doesn’t reveal who the wedding was between. The text hints that it was a close relative of Jesus — maybe it was a brother, sister or cousin. There is no way to know who was getting married, all the passage suggests is that the mother of Jesus was the host. She was the person to whom the servants turned when there was a problem with the wine.

Just as an aside, I want to note that the mother of Jesus remains unnamed in John’s gospel. Sadly, this is common of many of the women. They are designated only by their role in relationship to men rather than as a person with a name.

As a second aside, I want to draw attention to the scale of this wedding which the mother of Jesus was the host. It was clearly an affluent affair with wine flowing freely and servants and stewards attending the guests. Often, Jesus is depicted as hailing from a poor background. Yet, his father, Joseph, was a craftsperson, a carpenter. Nothing about this passage suggests the poverty background often imagined.

Anyway, back to the text. In the story the wine at the wedding ran out. The servants approached the mother of Jesus, who in turn appealed to Jesus. Water was converted into wine and guests commented that the best wine was saved until the last. This tale has been viewed as the first miracle also as an allegory. As always when reading this text, what fascinates me is the conversation between Jesus and his mother. It is a significant part of the account and as such would seem to be important.
When the wine ran out it was Jesus to whom his mother turned. She told him there was no wine. Jesus is recorded as saying it was no concern of his as “My hour has not yet come.” 
It is a strange retort. Obviously, Jesus knew that his mother was expecting a miraculous intervention. Yet was reluctant to reveal who he was. 
It shows the growth and maturity. In my last blog, I talked about the twelve-year-old, Jesus, who was so eager to start ministry and teaching that he was willing to abandon his family. In that text, Jesus had to be told that it was not the right time and he returned home with his mother. 
Now here, approximately eighteen years later, Jesus is still happy to remain in anonymity. Again, it was his mother who revealed the timing. She did it quietly and calmly. She simply ignored his protestation that it was not his hour and told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” The miracle was performed. The ministry was launched!

It is important that the key role of Jesus’ mother is not under-estimated. This woman was given the task of knowing when it was time for Jesus to start his ministry. Jesus submitted to that revelation from the person he esteemed highly.
I think these are such important principles established right at the beginning of the Gospel of John. Firstly, it establishes a key role for a woman (although unnamed).  Secondly, Jesus submits to the wisdom of another.

It always reminds me of the anamcara (soul friend) relationshipmentioned often in the story of the Celtic saints, An anamcara was someone with maturity and wisdom who helped with the discernment and timing of ministry. In this story, there is certainly a hint of that sort of relationship between mother and son. It is inspiring to think of the mother of Jesus as his anamcara. 

(Photo: Delaware Bay, November 2018)