Historically, and despite being brought up in a Catholic family (the first thing I saw when I was born was a life sized statue of Our Lady brought in to the hospital by my devout grandmother!), I have never really had a personal relationship with the Virgin Mary. For years, I was swayed by my protestant friends’ insistence that Catholic devotion to Mary was unfounded, and that if anything, Jesus was quite brusque with his mother in the Bible.
This all changed when I got a job at NYMO in January 2018. Something clicked in me that made me realise that it was ‘safe’ to trust the teaching of the magisterium, that I could venture into the water of starting a relationship with the Mother of God, all the while holding on to the rope of accepted church teaching. It was not, according to the church and opposing the view of my protestant friends, heretical. I stopped feeling guilty every time I said a Hail Mary. Then this Lent, I decided to pray a daily rosary. It was incredible. I felt connected with Jesus and Mary, and I felt peace, which I hadn’t felt properly before in my life.
Last month I started doing a course at my church called Follow Me, about the Gospel of John and that really chimed with my budding relationship with Mary. I had always found Jesus to be slightly disparaging and dismissive of his Mother in Scripture, but when Edward Sri explained the miracle of the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12) it all clicked for me.
Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks about ‘the hour’ – the whole book hinges on a countdown to the hour of Jesus’ death on the cross. When Mary told Jesus the wine had run out, Jesus said: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” This may sound like a stern rebuke from Jesus, but actually, when he calls his mother ‘woman’, Jesus is referring to a prophecy about Eve and Mary made in the very first book of the bible. In Genesis 3:15, God says to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.” Jesus is in fact telling Mary that she is the new Eve, whose ‘yes to God’ will cancel out Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden.
To understand the rest of the Wedding at Cana story, we have to look back to Luke 2:22-35. In this passage, Simeon sees the baby Jesus for the first time, recognises him as the Messiah, and says to Mary: “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
When Jesus says to Mary: “What is that to you and me? My hour has not yet come.”, Jesus is referring to Simeon’s prophecy. He is, in effect, saying: “ Woman, who is the new Eve, are you sure this is what you want? If you ask me to perform this miracle, it will be a sign that I am the Messiah. It will be the start of my public ministry and the countdown to the hour, at the end of which I will die, and your soul will be pierced with grief like Simeon said.”
Amazingly, and selflessly, Mary turns to the servants and simply says: “So whatever he tells you.”
Hearing this passage completely changed my understanding of the relationship between Jesus and Mary, and in turn humanity’s relationship with Mary and Jesus. I pray in confidence now, that Jesus really honours his mother, and that he wants us to learn from her as he did. Mary hears our needs, presents them to Jesus and then tells us to trust in Jesus’ response. Sometimes we just need to hear it from our mother!