I’d always dutifully thought of the miracle at Cana in terms of a foretaste of the new wine of the Kingdom. I’ve always listened to the homily! But at Mass today another thought crept in, a picture of Jesus at this morning’s wedding, waiting for a sign: when to begin the Great Work. Having refused to turn stones to bread for his own hunger and called his disciples together for whatever is to come, suddenly here is his mother at his elbow, giving him the same story: the wine has run out: my son, they have no wine! Jesus has promised his disciples visions of angels ascending and descending, but here is a crisis on the catering front. He says to her, Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come. But Mary has had years to ponder the angel’s message, and she recognises hours when they come. She gives the instructions: Do whatever he tells you, and all are astounded at the quality of the wine-from-water.
It is as though Jesus realised that the sign he was waiting for might not be the mighty voice of his Father, but the quiet voice of his mother speaking out a human need. And so his ministry begins, life-giving miracles and meals with friends, transfiguration on the mountaintop and stories of lost coins. This is a man who will know if a sick woman touches his cloak to find healing, who will find faith in unexpected places and change his attitude, who will fight against ordinary, unthinking human injustice. Heaven may well open, with angels ascending and descending, but in the meantime Jesus goes among people who are in need. Nothing is too small or too great for the One who has put death beneath his feet, the second person of the Trinity.
Following Jesus, trying to be like him, is something which comes gradually. I’ve written elsewhere about how I fell into the Church through the liturgy and the music, a route I wouldn’t change. But it meant that Jesus himself became for me a public figure glimpsed through the liturgy, whether as one of the ‘presences of Christ’ or a the star of the Gospels. In catechesis, he wears many hats: Son of God, Son of Man, Saviour, Emmanuel, Head of the Body which is the Church. To meet Jesus for the first time as someone who responds to the people he meets every day is something altogether different. Jesus challenged by his mother, Jesus, compassionate, Jesus, quick on the uptake, Jesus, powerful. All these hats, these titles are for something, and that something is us, his people. And not when the hour comes, but now, in our need.
What does this morning’s Gospel mean for us today? Maybe, if we are following Jesus Christ and trying to be like he is, just maybe it’s a reminder that the right time for compassionate action is not later on, as a New Year’s resolution, or during Lent, or when we think we’re ready, but now, now, now.
Listen: whose voices do you hear?