Second Sunday of the Year
Many people often feel they are running on empty. It is as if they have nothing left to give whether to a sick parent or spouse or child, or respond with kindness and compassion to people who are poor or marginalised, or believe that peace is possible. But more often it is people who are poor or marginalised who the ones who are running on empty. ‘The wine has run out.’
Today’s gospel manifests a scarcity in our lives – ‘they have no wine’ – and reveals God’s extravagance in providing the wine. We hear Mary say to us: ‘Do whatever he tells you’ - to people who probably feel they have little to offer or give. We see the possibility of recognising God’s abundant love, compassion, forgiveness, embrace and tenderness in Jesus’ encounters and relationships with people.
Jewish marriages, in Jesus’ time, were unlike those we in the West understand them. They were not always about a couple but about families forging links or peaceful relationships. So, when the wine runs out it was not just embarrassing or loss of face for the groom but may have caused disruptions to the connections between families or clans being sought. Mary’s ‘They have no wine’ was very political. Something needs to be done – to save the bonds of peace between the families or clans.
Jesus’ reply is the familiar, ‘My hour has not yet come’; ‘It is not the right time’. Clearly in John’s Gospel, ‘The hour’ refers to Jesus death and resurrection, but in this context, and in our own contexts, the time is never right for responding to injustice, conflict, violence and inequality. Peace-making is thoroughly political, and the ‘right time’ for responding to human need is always inconvenient and untimely. The only time to raise our voices for truth or acting for justice, hope and peace is always ‘now’. She ignores Jesus’ objections, and ours, as speaks the authoritative words: ‘Do whatever he tells you’. This crisis, as every personal or social crisis, is entrusted to us, as to the servants at Cana, despite feelings of inadequacy or concerns about what difference action would make. That is not the point. It is a cop-out. The call is: ‘Do whatever he tells you’. Trust that any act of kindness, mercy, forgiveness and compassion leads to what follows. A new world is possible. ‘My hour has not yet come.’ Jesus' reply was not enough for Mary. Representing her people and her needy world, she simply told the servants ‘Do whatever he tells you’ knowing that all would be well. Martin Luther King Jr. (January 17, 2022) took up Mary's theme in his book, Why We Can't Wait, writing ‘Time itself is neutral; it can be used destructively or constructively’ and ‘Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of [people] willing to be co-workers with God’ as change past due for people of African descent in the USA, and it past due for our First Nations people, it past due in seeking dialogue between nations rather than toxic words and false propaganda, and it is past due for women in the Church because necessary changes cannot wait for the ‘right time’ because it will never arrive. ‘They have no wine’ but if not now, when?
‘Do whatever he tells you!’ Mary means it! A new world is possible. Peace is possible. Mary was thoroughly political to ensure peace and understanding at the wedding. Like women in so many places around the world, she tried to rebuild broken relationships, to seek the well-being of people, reconciliation and healing of wounds as healthy politics is meant to do. ‘Do whatever he tells you’ requires a listening heart receptive to others, and campaigns for change, peace and justice. ‘Do whatever he tells you’ is speaking our truth and the every person is a sister or brother and the Earth our Mother. It is the truth that we are all interconnected.
Mary is actively living into what the Messiah represents, even though he claims it is not his time. She tapped into the power of God to fill a void and ensure that no one is excluded – where all are included. She embodies a discipleship that is not just about waiting and doing nothing until something happens or the time is right but tries to bridge the void, the absence and isolation that might occur. She lives out the faith and trust that even in this place God is among us; that something can be done to transform our world. Her commitment to people made a demand on Jesus (God) to do something. It is her faithful act of caring about others in need at a communal moment that reminds us of what we should be doing this year. Who among us have we excluded and forgotten? Who among us will lack and be without if we do not speak up? Who among us is invisible and vulnerable and without recognition? We can see that radical hospitality all around us if we look. Movements such as the Cana Community in Sydney and L’Arche live out the need to be interconnected. It is about relationships where the truth that everyone is a sister and brother is lived out. In each case they touch one another with kindness and by that build community through radical hospitality and mutual support.
In the coming weeks, Jesus' words and actions will show God reaching out as a lover to all – especially those on the margins of life. But for now, ‘they have no wine’. Mary’s comment provokes Jesus to ministry and provokes us to ministry. ‘You can make a difference, here, now’. We have a great responsibility and opportunity. We can proclaim God’s generosity by working for justice or we can take the path of looking out for ‘number one.’
As we enter into a new church year, Mary urges us to believe that the time is now for us to believe that God’s reign can be palpable in our midst as we listen to the promptings of the Spirit. The time has come for the church to become genuinely synodal, appreciating and listening to the voice of each of her members, especially those on the margins. This the shared journey, the pilgrimage, the ‘synodal path’ based on the conviction that the Spirit is given all in the Church and working beyond it. The hour has come for all of us to be coworkers with God and to listen to the Gospel. The time has come to look at Christ and do whatever he tells us.
When Mary says ‘Do whatever he tells you!’ she means it. Jesus exhorts us to hunger for justice, work actively for peace, love and do good to those who hate us, break the cycle of violence. We do not have hope. Hope is something we make and do. It depends on our day to day decisions. In his 2022 Message of Peace, Pope Francis, invites us to educate ourselves about the threats to peace and Mother Earth by ensuring that we include everyone around the table or banquet of God’s Reign. He is calling young and old to work together, to educate each other for peace and listen to the voice of the Spirit in ourselves and in the lives of others. The most important people at Cana, other than Mary and Jesus, were the servants who, like health workers, cleaners, drivers, dare to go about their work when things may even seem futile like filling jars with water. It is only through the ordinary day-to-day efforts of ordinary people, through the faithful witness of unsung heroes to the values of the Reign and the possibility of peace, that the miraculous happens and the new wine of the Reign is made available in abundance for running on empty at the Wedding Feast. Then we will know the joy God intends for humanity. ‘If we become crafters (my editing) of fraternity, we will be able to mend the threads of a world torn apart by war and violence’ (Pope Francis).