From Water to Wine and from Wine to Blood
A priest was driving his car on the way home from a social gathering. The party was great, and he had a bit more wine than usual. He must have been driving a little too fast because a traffic policeman noticed and stopped him. Seeing his collar, the cop respectfully greeted him, “Father, you are driving too fast. What’s the matter?” The priest said, “Oh, I just came from a party.” “Did you drink some wine?” the cop asked. The priest replied, “Oh no, just water.” “But, Father, I can smell that you had wine,” the cop insisted. The priest exclaimed, “I knew it! Oh, my dear Jesus! You did it again!” “What did Jesus do?” the cop was puzzled. “Don’t you realize?” the priest said. “I drank water only. And now you say it is wine!”
The Gospel this Sunday is about the wedding at Cana. This event is quite significant for several reasons. First, this was the occasion when Jesus changed water into wine. It was his first public miracle. Second, it also highlighted the special role of Mary in the history of salvation. And third, this event gives us an important lesson on how to cooperate in God’s plan of salvation.
Let me expound on these three points. The first point is about Jesus. He is the Son of God. He has all the power to do anything. In his hidden years in Nazareth, he must have already performed miracles secretly in the presence of his mother. This must be what Mary was referring to when he told her Son, “They have no wine.” This was just a simple miracle she was asking. But that would trigger the unfolding of a series of infinitely great events in salvation history. When Jesus performed this miracle, his private and hidden life ended, and he began to be publicly known throughout the whole of Galilee. This was the first step in his three-year journey that will end up in Calvary, and everything in his life shifted direction: from hidden to public, from carpenter to Messiah, from an ordinary man to the new Adam.
The second is about Mary. Mother and Son are intimately united. What happens to the Son will always have its corresponding effect on the Mother. When Jesus began to assume his role as the new Adam, Mary also began hers as the new Eve. It all began with the eyes of a caring and intuitive mother: Mary noticed that there was no more wine. Interestingly, she noticed the problem ahead of the waiters, wine servers and diners. Knowing how socially devastating it would be to the newly-weds, she approached her Son to inform him about the situation: “They have no wine.” Obviously, she was imploring him to do something extraordinary to remedy the situation. But Jesus immediately and accurately perceived the implicit message behind those words. That is why his response was very profound and charged with meaning: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” The “hour” is the word Jesus usually used to refer to the heavenly Father’s appointed time for his passion and death that he had to undergo for the salvation of mankind. In the ordinary language, the response of Jesus to his mother’s request would be like this: “My dear Mother, do you know what you are asking? If I do this miracle in public, people will eventually discover that I am the Messiah. And do you know that it will finally lead me to the cross? In this case, are you willing and ready to give me up for the sake of the salvation of mankind? Do you mean I am now to begin my ‘hour’? Do you realize that when I change water into wine, in a short while I will also change wine into blood?”
As always, being the obedient Handmaid of the Lord, Mary willingly accepted God’s will. Just as everything in Jesus shifted direction with this public miracle, so also with Mary. Jesus called her “Woman”. When Jesus manifested himself as Savior of mankind and started his work of redemption, Mary ceased being just the Mother of Jesus; she began her role as Mother of all mankind, mother of the Church, and hence, the title “Woman”, the most sublime title of universal motherhood. She selflessly offered her Son on the cross. With this, she has become the new Eve, the mother of the new humanity.
True devotion to Mary is essentially following Jesus. She is not the Savior; she is not God. But she will always lead us to the Savior, her Son Jesus, the Son of the Living God. That is why, the last words spoken by Mary that were recorded in the Gospels were imperative: “Do whatever he tells you.” First, she reminds us that it is Jesus who is the true Savior; she is just the Handmaid of the Lord. So our devotion to her should always be directed to Jesus. And second, she exhorts us to action. Following Jesus is not a matter of passive waiting, but of doing what he commands us to do. This is clearly illustrated in the miracle at Cana. Jesus could have done the miracle out of nothing. But he instructed them: “Fill the jars with water.” Fortunately they heeded Mary’s admonition: “Do whatever he tells you.” And from their obedience and their active participation, the great miracle happened. The poet Richard Crashaw described this moment beautifully: “The unconscious waters saw their God, and blushed!” (“The World’s First Love” by Fulton Sheen, p. 116).
In following Jesus, then, we need Mary. She accompanies us in our journey, and brings us to her Son. Pope John Paul II said, “Let us listen to Mary, Most Holy, in whom the mystery of the Eucharist appears as a mystery of light. Gazing upon Mary, we come to know the transforming power present in the Eucharist. In her we see the world renewed in love.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 62).
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002