« St. Catherine | Main | Precious Blood Saints »

May 3, 2004

Mary, Woman of the New Covenant

This is another article written for Precious Blood Family

Woman of the New Covenant, Help of Christians

We, the baptized, have been invited to the wedding feast.(1) If Jesus were to stand here and talk of the Kingdom, he would speak not of a political order, but of a Feast, a Community, a Celebration. We would have hopes and desires for this feast. There would be joy. Even people just passing by would be invited to participate. The expectation of joy and fellowship and community and communion would be something all of us would bring.

But at the feast in Israel in Jesus' days, these expectations were not being fulfilled. Some were left out. Some were not welcome. Some were not free. Others felt that they were holy, to the exclusion of others. Some were considered not dressed properly for the Feast of the Kingdom. And in the midst of these expectations, hoped for and unfulfilled, the scriptures present us with a stunning picture of Mary.

Wedding feasts were events of the whole community. The Gospel of John tells us a story of one such feast(2), and even before mentioning the name of Jesus, the Evangelist points out that Mary was there. As any woman of that culture, she would have been deeply involved with the preparations of the feast, preparing the food, providing the hospitality, making sure the feast was festive and the atmosphere joyful. We know two things that she says on this occasion. No one asks her, but she speaks clearly, without invitation. She stands and says to Jesus, "They have no wine."

This is her wisdom. This is her voice. This is her gift to us. If the wine has failed, all our expectations of joy and community and communion have failed. If the wine has failed, the kingdom of God has yet to be realized; therefore, she becomes for us at this juncture the voice of our longing for the kingdom. It is only one small voice, she remains hidden but not despairing. Even in the absence of the kingdom, she was faithful. She knew more clearly than anyone else did what the gift and expectation were, and she speaks the voice of our longing: there is more coming.

The kingdom has yet to come and she stands at the table and says let it come. She takes the whole of our tradition, Jewish and Christian, and reduces it to five words: "Do whatever He tells you." She doesn't speak as one with authority as if she wants to establish her own way or her own power. Instead, she remains hidden and her voice falls silent. We never hear it again.

From then on we only see what she does. She stands and she waits. She with the Beloved Disciple witnesses the Passion of Jesus. She gathers with the apostles in the upper room to pray. But those are her last words to us, not as a teacher, nor a superior. She is not an overlord, but a mother who knows what abundance waits for us- abundance more than of just 150 gallons of pure wine! Good wine!

Mary gives us Jesus. Mary turns us to Jesus. Mary brings us to Jesus. In Mary and through Mary the situation of humanity and of the world has been reversed, and we have in some way re-entered into the splendor of the first creation. Mary was the instrument that linked the Son of God to human flesh and blood. Later we see Him feed the multitudes, more than five thousand people. He far exceeds the expectations that we brought to this feast and that all the prophets had. It's not simply just a revelation of Divine Love. It is a revelation that we share in divine nature. No mere passerby is included now, but each one of us becomes the child, the son or daughter at the feast, with a place card, each with our own name. We bring to our feast a vision, knowing in our own expectations and in our experiences of our life and of the kingdom of this world that the wine fails often.

In all our distresses, in all our persecutions, in all our sorrows, and in all our afflictions, she is the one who stands at the table offering the bread of abundance and the wine of the new covenant, simply repeating her words to us: "Do whatever He tells you."

It is important for us to realize and to celebrate the presence of the Mother of Jesus. She speaks to those who wait on table, not to the powerful, or to the leaders, or to the headwaiter, but to those who serve. Only the servants know. In any situation in life that can be characterized by "They have no wine" the servants have the means to enable the kingdom of God.

A reading of Chapter 12 of Revelation shows that from the very beginning of creation, "this woman clothed with the sun" is caught in a conflict with the powers of evil. Our own experience of life in the twentieth century says that the wine has often failed; that life is not cherished, that violence is promoted, that among the young people of our nation the lifestyle that lacks responsibility or vision is promoted. Television tells us that to be a Christian is to be mentally deficient or to be corrupt. Yet she remains from the very beginning the image of the Church, the image of those of her offspring who keep her word. She who is our Mother prevails against all enemies within and without. She remains simply the mother at the table with an abundance of bread in the wilderness(3)--with an abundance of the New Wine of the Covenant.

(1)Matt 22:2 "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.
(2)John 2: 1-11
(3)Mary?s statement, "Do whatever he tells you," is an echo of the same statement in the book of Genesis when Pharaoh tells the Israelites about Joseph, "Do whatever he tells you." (Gen. 41:55) Thus in the story of the Wedding at Cana we have a reference to an abundance of Bread in the desert and an Abundance of the wine of the new covenant, a marvelous Eucharistic meditation.

Posted by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. at May 3, 2004 9:09 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry: