Readings: Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-11
Although not inevitable, it is not rare, that children having moved beyond adolescence and young adulthood increasingly experience their parents as true and trusted friends to whom they can relate as virtual equals. And thus it is that the sometimes problematic obedience and submission of childhood years gives way to increased mutuality expressed through a healthy interdependence. It is not easy to gauge from the gospels the extent to which this development occurred in the relationship between Jesus and his mother Mary. The gospels have literally nothing to say about the nature of their relationship during those so-called “hidden years” of Christ beginning with that incident of the finding of Jesus in the Temple and culminating in today’s encounter at the Wedding at Cana.
However, you will recall that after that incident of finding of Jesus in the temple Luke tells us that Jesus went down with Mary and Joseph and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. Speculating about whether this obedience and submission to Mary and Joseph gradually gave way to a more mutually supportive friendship is complicated by the fact that as Jesus matured into early adulthood he could no longer be regarded simply as Mary’s son, but also as her Lord and Redeemer. Nevertheless, we can’t forget Jesus’ own words to his disciples when he declared, I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
This declaration of friendship was, however, not made lightly or without preparation and came at the culmination of years of intense preparation and formation undergone through the many hours, days, weeks, and years that the disciples spent in Jesus’ company. They had begun as men seeking to have Jesus adapt himself to their expectations of who he should be as Messiah. But the more time they spent with their mysterious Master the more confused and bewildered they became as he disappointed their limited and shortsighted expectations. It was really only after Jesus’ arrest and execution that they finally surrendered to the revelation of his true identity and allowed themselves to be taken up into its mystery and truly become his friends.
I can’t help wondering if today’s gospel account describes a similar—though qualitatively different—moment in the life of Mary. We have just heard how she initially approached Jesus to alert him to the fact that the hosts had run out of wine and was perhaps just about to instruct him to do something when his almost rude retort seems to have evoked a significant change in Mary and in her relationship to Jesus. One wonders if there was momentary surprise and even confusion at this shift in their relationship as he seems to assert his freedom and independence as a grown and mature man. However, it would seem that any surprise and confusion were momentary for she readily shifts from being the responsible and directing parent expecting her son to obey her instructions, to assuming an attitude of receptive and trusting obedience—one she also enjoins on the servants by telling them, do whatever he tells you.
And because of Mary’s special privilege of being spared the effects of Original Sin, not only was her will truly free, but her intellect was also free from the distortions and delusions occasioned by sin. Accordingly, as she relinquished her maternal control over her now grown Son the initial reversal of roles that now called for her obedience to him was, I believe, rapidly transformed and elevated into that perfect union of wills that sees and understands reality from God’s perspective. This enabled her to reach that happy state that William of Saint Thierry describes of not only of willing what God wills but no longer being able to will anything else. And it is this that enables her to reach that stage where she is simultaneously Jesus’ mother, his disciple, and his friend.
Although our growth towards friendship with Christ is obviously different from Mary’s, it nevertheless passes through three similar stages. Like the disciples we begin thinking that we know what is best for us and for others and so attempt to have God meet our expectations and fulfill our desires. Repeated failures to achieve this control over God lead to the second stage of confusion, doubt, frustration, and even anger—a point at which not a few give up on the spiritual quest. However, if, like Peter, we press forward through the confusion and bewilderment and increasingly surrender in what seems like blind obedience to God’s will we begin catching glimpses of God’s perspective through a graced sharing in his infinite wisdom. And much to our surprise, perseverance in this trusting surrender and obedience leads not into eternal subservience and domination, but into the loving and ineffable realm of divine friendship and mutuality where, like Mary, we finally love even as we are loved and in this show that we too have become true friends of God and blessed coheirs with Christ.