Signs and symbols

by Mary McGlone

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We know legend has it that after Pentecost, Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived out her days with John the Evangelist. We also know that when a Gospel story has lots of detail, scholars suggest that it has its source in personal witnesses. Those two facts invite us to imagine John, the theologian, telling Mary, the practical mother, how he wanted to narrate the story of the wedding at Cana.

CEL-Jan172016.jpgMary: I don't know how you can read all of that into it. I simply saw that the family was going to be embarrassed. After all, they had saved and borrowed and called on the whole clan to help make a wedding a celebration that would foretell the wonderful life of the couple -- and then, no wine!

John: But don't you see how perfectly it was set up? A wedding is our best symbol of God's future for us! Don't you think about God's love for the chosen people every time you go to a wedding?


Second Sunday in
Ordinary Time
Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 96
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
John 2:1-11

Mary: John, dear, sometimes a party is just a party. Most people don't think through the whole of Scripture as they carry on the ordinary activities of the day.

John: But you know me. You've even conceded that sometimes I have given you insight -- that I have shed a different light on things for you. Don't you think that's part of why Jesus wanted us together? Now, with your permission, I'm going to tell this story in a way that shows how his first sign was the announcement of his mission. Let me explain. First of all, admit it, there couldn't have been a better setting than a wedding. Remember how many times he used the story of parties, especially weddings, as signs of the kingdom? You were already there, not just as a guest or his mother, but as if you were representing Israel herself. Then, what happened? The party was about to flop. Don't you see what that represents?

Mary: You and your symbols! I told you, I felt terrible for them! Running out of wine meant that they were running out of everything!

John: That's just it! Israel was running out of everything. Then, what did you do?

Mary: I took it upon myself to disturb my son. If I was disturbed, the least he could do was be disturbed with me! He was creative. I thought that if anyone could do something, he could.

John: That's what I call the work of a prophet. Remember Jeremiah, who said, "Your word is like a fire within me," and Isaiah swearing, "I won't be silent until Israel shines forth like the dawn." You saw the need of your people and you believed in God's love. So you spoke out. You were the one who called on the Messiah to make the wedding a real feast for the people.

Mary: John, I simply told him there was no wine.

John: And then what?

Mary: And then what? His reply didn't make sense to me. It sounded as if he didn't even feel like part of the group. But I told the servants to do whatever he said.

John: Ah, and with that, you are still going to tell me that you weren't a prophet? What does a prophet do but cry out to God and then remind the people to listen and put God's works into practice!

Mary: I thought maybe he would just send the servants out.

John: But he knew that going out would do no good. What was needed can't be purchased or found outside. My dear, dear lady, look at it! You represented the best of our tradition, asking for joy when it had all run dry. You may not have had any idea of what could be done. It looked hopeless, but you did the two most important things: You asked him and you told them to do what he said. That's all that is ever necessary! You yourself have told me your story from the beginning -- you said, "How can this be?" and then believed that with God nothing is impossible.

Mary: John, I was not the center of the story! It was he. If you are going to tell this story, focus on him.

John: Of course. I won't even use your name. But nothing would have been the same without you. I know it was just one wedding party. But whether you see it or not, it represents everything! Like our people through the ages, you knew that something was lacking. You knew nobody else could supply it. It may not have been his hour to complete it, but it sure was the moment to announce what was coming.

Mary: John, go on, write your story, maybe others will understand. I'm going to the well.

John: You always do.

[Mary M. McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. She is a freelance writer and executive director of FUVIRESE USA.]

A version of this story appeared in the Jan 1-14, 2016 print issue under the headline: Signs and symbols.

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