- Sonia-Maria Szymanski
Behold, your mother: Our Lady of Cana
This is part of our 2023 “Behold, your mother” series, which will feature a different personage of Mary each month. Read to the end of this blog post for a gift from us to you this year!
In the Gospels, Mary speaks on four separate occasions: the annunciation, the visitation, when she finds Jesus in the Temple, and at the wedding feast of Cana. Each of these instances impacted Jesus’ life. With only a few words, Mary cooperated in bringing Jesus into the world, starting His ministry and sending Him to His death to redeem humanity. Mary does the same in the life of an infertile couple. Without your knowledge, she intercedes to her Son to help with your burden of infertility.
The story of the wedding at Cana, as told by John, consists of three parts.
First, Mary noticed the absence of wine.
Then, she interceded with her Son on behalf of the wedding couple.
Finally, her Son warns her of the end result – His death - that her ask will have.
Each part of this story carries meaning and can be linked to the layers of pain and healing of that woman with infertility.
As all were celebrating, Mary noticed there was no more wine. This would have been the cause of embarrassment and shame to both the wedding couple and their families. In those days, it was customary to celebrate weddings for several days. The father of the bride was in charge of making sure all the guests were provided for so running out of wine would have been an insult to everyone attending. It would be a stain on the couple’s reputation for their entire life and Mary wanted to prevent this. Surprisingly, Mary and not the wine steward noticed the missing wine. How could this simple woman observe something an expert missed?
She anticipates our suffering
Mary anticipated their suffering because she loved them the way a mother loves her children. Similarly, because she loves every man and woman who experiences infertility, she is able to see your suffering – even if it is hidden. Infertility cannot be detected with the naked eye. There is no physical sign that shows we are infertile, like a broken limb or cut or scrape. The pain is kept away from our family, friends and the world - sometimes even our spouse. But Our Lady of Cana sees it. Just as at the wedding feast two millennia ago, Mary is specifically looking for problems before they become a crisis. She is watching without prying, watching with love, watching and waiting for you, keeping vigil. You can’t hide this pain from her.
After Mary noticed the missing wine, she immediately told her Son, “They have no wine” (John 2:3). She went from being a mere spectator to choosing to involve herself in something that did not seem to be her business. She even interrupted her Son who was probably having a good time with his friends. Because of her love for the newlywed couple, she had to act. The wine steward was useless, he was not aware of the looming tragedy about to take place. She had to act quickly and behind the wedding couple’s back. She did not ask their permission in this particular instance. By inviting her to their wedding, they implicitly gave her permission to act as needed. At a Catholic nuptial Mass, the bride traditionally entrusts her motherhood to Mary. When weeks, months or years later, the bride faces challenges in her motherhood (biological or spiritual), Mary has already been given permission to act as she sees fit. Motherhood is her business and she does just as she did in Cana without you even knowing about it. How much is she doing behind your back?
She points to her Son
In the third part of the wedding feast story, Jesus answers His mother: “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). To say the least, this reply evokes both confusion and discomfort. He cautioned Mary of what she was setting in motion by her request. In fixing this problem, at her insistence, Jesus’ public ministry would begin and within three years, He would be dead. They both knew the timeline to His Passion would begin that day. In essence, He was asking His mother if she really wanted Him to launch His public mission over missing wine. By saying “My Hour has not yet come,” Jesus is not referring to time set on a clock or a calendar. In John’s Gospel, the hour means the Triduum; from the last supper to Gethsemane, from Calvary to the crucifixion, death and resurrection. Jesus is telling Mary that this simple transformation of water into wine will trigger a chain of events that neither of them will be able to stop. This “hour” is the very reason Jesus entered into the world.
Most of us would have been reprimanded for calling our mother “woman” but for Jesus, this was not disrespectful. These two Jews lived and breathed the Law and the prophets. Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise that God gave to His people. When asked to begin His mission, Jesus understands Himself to be the new covenant. This is why He goes back to the first covenant. When Jesus uses the term “woman”, He is referring to the woman that was prophesied in Genesis. Jesus names Mary as the “woman” who will bring redemption into the world and crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 2:15). In calling her “woman”, He reminds Mary of the extraordinary role she has. He is saying: “This is it! We are doing this and we can’t go back!”
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We are part of the story
It is interesting that this was revealed at a wedding of ordinary people. The newlywed couple was not royalty and they remained nameless in history, and yet God chose this moment to transform history. He chose all attending this wedding to be witnesses to His Son’s first sign. This is how Jesus acted. He manifested Himself to ordinary people doing ordinary things as the savior of the world. He pulled people into this story through moments of joy and moments of agony. This is how a couple experiencing infertility is pulled into the story of redemption too. They do not choose this, but for whatever reason, God allows this to happen to them. As we hobble along our infertile road, we might feel like God is not answering our prayers. We beg to be blessed with a child but to God, this may not be the best thing. We know what we want but He knows what we need. We want a miracle and He wants to give us a miracle but it may not be the same miracle we envision. By asking Mary to intercede for us, we must be prepared for the possibility of getting the bad wine or even no wine at all.
We do our part
When Mary told Him of the missing wine, Jesus chose to act. He did not have to obey but He acted knowing the end result would be His death. He took the water and transformed it into the most delicious wine. The inept steward, totally oblivious to everything, was surprised at how this fine wine had been kept for the end. At least he didn’t miss that part. Jesus told the servants to “fill the jars with water” (John 2:7). Like those servants, it is imperative that we do our part in this miracle. We may seek proper medical attention when concerned about infertility; we need to do our due diligence. We are also asked to do something that demands so much of us: trust. Yes, we are asked to trust in Him that He is preparing us for the next step. Whether you are to live a life with or without children, to adopt or not, the choice of accepting your cross is yours. You are free to reject or accept it. Carrying your cross brings you closer to God as you are uniting your suffering to His, to the suffering Mary experienced as she saw her Son die on the cross.
The wedding couple at Cana was spared from shame but we do not know if sickness, poverty or infertility plagued them after the wedding. They may have been just like you, longing for a child. The irony is that the wedding feast at Cana became the set-up for the road to Calvary. The greater irony is that it culminates in the heavenly wedding feast. This wedding couple’s joy was the early fruit of redemption. The uncertainties, agonies and disappointments of married life that this wedding couple may have experienced were not unique to them.
We are not alone
Your suffering is real and terrible and it does not go unnoticed. Mary knows your suffering because she suffered too. When she lost her Son, she gained more children than she could have imagined. And she gained you, a woman who longs for a child. Mary gives us hope, she gives us courage, and she gives you her Son and says, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). Let this not simply be a year of failed pregnancy tests and disappointment. Let this year be one where you rely on Our Lady of Cana to accompany you in carrying this cross. Ask that, through her intercession, you will be given the strength to keep walking and choose joy each step of the way.
Our Lady of Cana, guide me in this walk across the barren desert of infertility. Help me to keep moving forward and never to distrust your Son. Please place my prayer before God. May His will always be done and may I rejoice when it is. Amen.
“Behold, your mother” prayer cards
“Behold, your mother” is a series of blog posts throughout 2023 exploring different titles and personages of Mary and how we can let her mother us. We are collaborating with a beautiful Catholic creator, First Saturday Shop, to bring you a prayer card with each post in this series.
To receive a free printable version of the prayer cards, subscribe to our email list and receive the download link by email each month.
To buy a hard copy of the prayer cards, go to First Saturday Shop (international shipping available).