“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine’. And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:1-4 emphasis mine)
If you imagine this scene for a moment and picture it in your head, then you will see something interesting. It’s a powerful scene that tells a lot about the Blessed Mother. The exchange between Mary and her son, Jesus, goes something like this:
Mary: “They have no wine”
Jesus: “How does your concern affect me?”
Mary recognizes the needs of the bride and groom. Imagine the concern and fear in Mary’s voice as she approaches Jesus and asks for his help. For a bride and groom to run out of wine at a wedding was an embarrassment and social nightmare. It would have been humiliating for the couple. It would have also ruined their celebration. There was an “unspoken” social contract when a wedding happened during these times. In essence, it was a quid pro quo level of expectation. The host has certain obligations to those which have come before him. One of those obligations is to return to his guests what has been given to him.
In this society we can understand a little about how the ancient culture in Galilee worked at this time but let me give you an example. If I invite you to my son’s wedding and throw a large reception, full of all the food and wine you care to eat, it would have been expected in those days for you to do the same when your child was married. The only difference today is that if I throw a large reception and provide an abundance of food, beer, and wine for you as my guest and yet you only give a small reception with just sandwiches, cake, and water then there would be gossiping perhaps and whispering among your guests. There would not be a massive social consequence (unless you consider the potential gossiping). However, it was not the same in Jesus’ time.
If you were invited to a wedding and were provided with an unlimited supply of food and drink, then it was expected (and demanded) that you do the same when your child is married. So, if you throw a wedding celebration for your child and you run out of wine then you have a major disaster in that society. It would be more than an embarrassment. It would brand the wedding a failure and disgrace, it would turn the joy of the celebration into anger and bitterness from the guests, and any steward associated with that celebration would never work again at another one because they allowed the wine to run out.
With this situation in mind, Mary recognizes the urgency and crucial moment for this couple. She intercedes for them. She knew if anyone could do anything about it then it would be Jesus. However, notice the difference between how Mary words the problem to Jesus and how Jesus responds. Mary has noticed the couple’s dilemma and told Jesus “they have run out of wine.” Jesus, on the other hand, sees deeper and understands his mother’s heart. He recognizes that she has not only played the role of intercessor for the couple and taken their concerns to her son, but she has indeed made their concerns her own concerns. She has taken their fear upon herself, and it has become her fear. As a result, she has not only made their problem her problem. Now, she has made their problem HIS problem.
Can you imagine the tone of Mary’s voice as she approaches Jesus? I can hear the fear, yet confidence, in Mary’s voice as she makes the request to her son to help. Jesus answers his mother because it seems that he was not ready or wanting to do the miracle, yet he responds because of her. He responds to his mother’s needs because it is the bride and groom’s needs that have become her own.
Mary still intercedes for us that way today. She takes our intentions, petitions, cares, fears, and concerns and she makes them her own. When she stands before her son, she presents all our needs to him as if they were her own. When he hears our needs echoed from her mouth, he hears his mother’s needs.