January 14, 2022

Christ the Cornerstone

The miracle of Cana, and a marriage blessed by God

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“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.’ His mother said to the servers, ‘Do whatever he tells you’ ” (Jn 2:3-5).

The Gospel reading for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time recounts the familiar story of the miracle worked by Jesus at a wedding banquet in Cana.

We do not meet the newly married couple whose wedding celebration narrowly avoided disaster by running out of wine, but we can say with certainty that their union was blessed by God. Not only were the Son of God and his Blessed Mother present during the wedding banquet—a great blessing in and of itself—but they intervened and saved the day by making sure that this solemn occasion was not marred by a grave sin against hospitality.

During the past 2,000 years, many have wondered why Jesus’ first miracle was not more dramatic—like the miracle of the loaves and fish or raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus himself suggests that this was not the most appropriate time or place to reveal his divine mission. And yet, he gives in to his mother’s instruction to the servers: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).

As a result, our Lord’s first public sign is a domestic manifestation of his divinity, not unlike his miraculous birth some 30 years earlier in an undistinguished stable in the little town of Bethlehem.

The story of Jesus’ conception and birth is also the story of a marriage blessed by God in the most extraordinary circumstances. In that story, it was the Archangel Gabriel who, in effect, said to Mary, and then to Joseph, “Do whatever [God] tells you.” And because Mary and Joseph were obedient, following instructions that didn’t necessarily make sense to them, the salvation promised us since our first parents’ original disobedience was realized.

Mary commands the respect of her adult son because he knows what she has sacrificed by doing God’s will. She directs the servers to do whatever her son tells them to do because she knows that he has the compassion, and the power, to make things right in this impossible situation. She doesn’t beg, argue or cajole anyone, least of all her son. She merely states the case: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). Then she instructs the servers to do as Jesus commands.

None of Jesus’ miracles, or “signs” as St. John calls them, are intended to show off his power. They all point to something much deeper and more profound. The miracle of the loaves and fish signifies God’s ability to satisfy our hungry hearts, especially through his real presence in the Eucharist. The miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead is a powerful reminder that God alone has authority over life and death. And the miracle Jesus worked at the wedding feast in Cana demonstrates that if we follow God’s will—in little things as well as in big things—all will be well.

“Do whatever he tells you” is more than just good advice from our Blessed Mother Mary. It is the principle that she lived by her whole life. She knows from her own experience that this kind of obedience is the only way to live if we want to grow in holiness and become faithful missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. If we do whatever he tells us to do, all will be well.

The synod process that Pope Francis inaugurated last fall invites us to encounter Jesus, to listen prayerfully to God’s word and to each other, and to discern God’s will for our Church. We should look to Mary as we journey together, and we should follow her words (and her example) by doing whatever her son, Jesus, tells us to do.

The married couple in Cana, whose wedding was blessed by God, are also a miracle (or sign) from God. They encourage us to keep this great sacrament holy, and they remind us that whatever hardships must be faced in the course of married life, Jesus and his mother are present. Jesus and Mary walk with every wife and husband on their journey together, and they affirm that if each couple can listen to each other and seek God’s will for their marriage and family, all will be well.

“Do whatever he tells you” ought to be the guiding principle for all who seek to follow Jesus and live peaceful, productive lives of love and service. Let’s turn to Mary and ask her to help us encounter her son, listen to one another, and discover God’s will for us. †

Local site Links: