Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Wedding in Cana or The Big Mary Smack Down?

Candy and co. seem to have a problem with Mary. And they are not alone. I have read elsewhere on the internet that other non-Catholic Christians (my way of avoiding the term Protestant! - hey!!)) consider the way Jesus speaks to Mary at the Wedding in Cana to be Mary's comeupance, her big smack down, the proof that Jesus considered her to be just a woman, nothing more, nothing less.

I think this passage is a good example to all of us that the bible is an intricate book and that the reader must take the culture and the language into consideration as he reads.

From Scott Hahn's
Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God

Page 35

Jesus arrives at the wedding feast with his mother and His disciples. A wedding celebration in the Jewish culture of the time, normally lasted about a week. Yet we find at this wedding ,that the wine ran out very early. At which point Jesus' mother points out the obvious: "They have no wine" (Jn 2:3). It is a simple statement of fact. But Jesus seems to respond in a way that is far out of proportion to His mother's simple observation. "O woman," he says, "what have you to do with Me? My hour has not yet come."

In order for us to understand Jesus' seeming overreaction we need to understand the phrase "what have you to do wiht me?" Some commentators claim that this represents Jesus' brusque reproach of His mother. However, that does not hold up on careful study.

First, we should note that in the end, Jesus does fulfill the request He infers with Mary's observation . If He intended to reproach her, he surely wouldnot have followed His reproach by complying with her request.

The decisive evidence against the reproach reading, however, comes from the alleged reproach itself, "What have you to do with me?" was a common Hebrew and Greek idiom in Jesus' day. It is found in several other places in the Old and New Testaments as well as in sources outside the Bible. In all other occurrences, it certainly does NOT signify reproach or disrespect. Quite the opposite; it conveys respect and even deference. Consider Luke 8:28 when the line is used verbatim by a man possessed by the devil. IT is the demon who puts these words in the possessed man's mouth, and he means them to acknowledge Jesus' authority over both the man and the demon. "I beseech you, do not torment me." he continues thereby affirming that he must carry out whatever Jesus commands.

At Cana, Jesus defers to His mother, though she never commands Him. She in turn merely tells the servants "Do whatever He tells you." (Jn 2:5).

Candy often accuses Catholics of putting the focus on Mary instead of Jesus. What she and her followers miss is that Mary ALWAYS points us to her son and always urges us to "Do whatever He tells you." And that's why Catholics venerate Mary, because she is the perfect model of complete trusting obedience to Christ.

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Tracy said...

Excellent post Elena!!!

Blondie said...

Good job, Elena! Funny how just looking at it from another point of view changes the whole picture. Mary doctrine was the biggest obstacle to my covnersion...but Scott Hahn did a fantastic job of helping me understand it. (That was his wife Kimberly's biggest obstacle too.)

Perplexity said...

When people don't honestly understand something, it becomes a point upon which to hang up.

I've never been hung up on the doctrine of Mary, but I certainly have a much lower risk of that happening in the future since I'm reading these post and gaining a bit of understanding about something I had no understanding of before.

Nancy Parode said...

I've always loved the Cana story because it is so mom-and-son. How many of us moms have hovered over our teen/adult sons to make sure they're doing what needs to be done, while debating whether we should back off and let them be grownups?

In the end, Mary acknowledges that Jesus is in charge, that He really does know the best thing to do. She's willing to trust that He will do it - even if "it" ends up being nothing at all.

What a wonderful model for us to follow! Trust in Jesus, because He truly knows what is best for each of us, and He will provide.

This is a really helpful post, Elena, and not just for non-Catholics. I had no idea some people thought that what Jesus says to Mary in this story was a smackdown!

Sal said...

The Big Mary Smack Down?
I am LOL! Priceless!
I've heard that one before, though.

Because of ordinary human affections, I think Marian devotion should be one of those things that would be easy to understand. Yet, it's so hard for people. Curious.

Moonshadow said...

the reader must take the culture and the language into consideration as he reads.

Too often the reader, lacking the basic humility required to approach Scripture, brings along their own dispositions and projects them upon the text. If theirs is a reactionary, defensive religion, then they think Jesus likewise persecuted and ridiculed. Just like them.

In their overprotective view, not only is Mary put in her place, but also a leader like Nicodemus (John 3). They can't appreciate dialectic but instead believe - hey, now! - that Nicodemus is pickin' a fight with the Lord!

Their inability to engage the text, as you say, on its own terms reminds me of that famous summation recounted by Loewe in his intro Christology book.

Some Jesuit "likened the liberal quest for the historical Jesus to a person looking down a deep, dark well. What would someone see at the bottom of a well? ... a blurry image of themselves ... the historical figure of Jesus constructed by liberals like Harnack looks suspiciously like the figure of a nineteenth-century liberal German professor of theology ..."

Plus ├ža change ...

Scripture is a mirror, so to profit the most from reading it, we must be aware of which of our faces we bring to it.


Heidi Hess Saxton said...

In my book Behold Your Mother as well as the related blog, I recount my own encounters with Mary shortly after my conversion to Catholicism. Honestly, nothing recommended me to her, except my inordinate stubbornness ... and her compassion for those who genuinely seek the truth.

It's important to keep in mind that many Christians, wandering in the darkness of their own subjective reasoning, have sincere motives for turning away from Mary, supposing that in so doing they are turning toward God. Nothing could be farther from the truth. "Honor your father and mother." "Behold your mother, behold your son." In both Old Testament and New, the Scriptures juxtapose the reality of Mary's motherhood ... and the necessity of our embracing that spiritual motherhood for ourselves.

What gave me courage to embrace it was the realization that (like the author points out) all true devotion to Mary leads directly to Jesus, who as a divine person continues to be our mediator in heaven ... just as His mother is our most powerful intercessor.