The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
1613 On the threshold of his public life Jesus performs his first sign - at his mother's request - during a wedding feast. The Church attaches great importance to Jesus' presence at the wedding at Cana. She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ's presence.
This afternoon I got to thinking about that one little phrase "at His mother's request" and the significance of Mary's role in Salvation history.
Catholics know that Mary is not divine and we do not worship her, though our relationship and reverence for our Blessed Mother is often misunderstood by our separated brothers and sisters. We understand, instinctively, that her 'fiat' or assent to become the spouse of the Holy Spirit is what got the ball rolling, so to speak. Certainly, God could have come up with a different way to save us from the sin of Adam but He didn't; instead, He chose to ask a little girl in the backwaters of the Roman Empire, a member of a conquered people, to put herself in physical danger by offering her body to become the new Ark of the Covenant. He then waited for her answer. She was not raped, she was not overcome, she was not manipulated; rather, she was asked, by her Creator, to make herself one with Him and thereby bring God into the world as a 'squishy little baby' (using the words of Father Mark).
Catholics do not see her as merely a receptacle - she gave a home to The Word made Flesh. Whose DNA was used by the GodMan? Who risked her reputation at the least, her very life at the most, to bring Jesus Christ into the world?
Over and over again she put herself at the service of God and others - as the earthly wife of St Joseph and the heavenly wife of The Holy Spirit. She raised the Child, fleeing with Him and St Joseph to Egypt, going up to Jerusalem for the Feasts, teaching Him as she had been taught to be a pious and loving Jew in a world where such behavior was regarded as suspicious by the authorities.
She was told by prophets at the temple that a sword would pierce her heart and so she knew, she knew, that life would hold great suffering for her. She may not have known the details but she knew that this Child, her own Creator, would Gather the Tribes, Conquer the Enemies of Israel, Cleanse the Temple. After the death of her earthly spouse, she traveled with her only Child, and she heard her kinsman - John the Baptist - call that Child the Lamb of God. She knew, like any other first century Jew would have known, that the Lamb of God came to be sacrificed.
She knew...and she never left. She stayed with Him and the Apostles, praying and serving and being there quietly in the background.
That day at the wedding, when she told her Savior that the hosts had no more wine and so would suffer shame before their village and tribe, He looked at her and asked her another question. He asked her, gently and with love, if she knew what she was asking of Him. 'Woman', He said, "Why do you involve me?".
I got to thinking, would Jesus have begun His public ministry that day if Mary had not asked Him to do so?
If she had not interceded for the host of the wedding, in much the same way that she intercedes for me when I ask her to pray with me to her Son, would He have stepped in and said, "There is a problem...I better solve it'?
And what exactly was He asking Mary? She had been told years before, at His dedication in the temple, that a sword would pierce her heart. She had kept all that to herself and pondered it, contemplating on the future as the Mother of God, the Queen Mother of the King of Israel and what that title could both cost and give her.
When He asked her if she really wanted Him to do this, He knew that it was the beginning...the beginning of His walk towards Calvary and the ultimate sacrifice that only the true Lamb of God could accomplish. He knew what was waiting Him - the pain, the rejection, the trials and tribulations of opening the Gates of Heaven for the children of God. He knew that some would leave His Church, others would defile Her with their sinful ways and that ultimately others would betray Her because She would stand fast in the face of all kinds of demands of the world to change, to adapt, to 'get with it'.
Mary, neither omnipotent nor all knowing, must have had an inkling in that moment of what she was asking of her Son, her God, her Savior.
What did she do?
She turned to those in attendance and gave them a gentle command: Do whatever He tells you.
Today, that continues to be the command she gives me. Don't worry about it. Stop wondering if the world loves you or rejects you. Stop worrying about whether you are the popular kid at the lunch table or if you meet the standards of society.
Just do it...do whatever He tells you to do.
As I begin to prepare for the Advent Season I am struck by how much I owe that little Jewish girl in that backwater town and I pray, every day, that I can be as brave as she...and I can just keep going, one day at a time, doing whatever He tells me to do.