Archives, Pondering, Songs of Assent

What Mary Modeled

I do not find it surprising that Mary was a compassionate friend. Neither is it astounding that Mary would believe her son could help her friends. “Do whatever he tells you” sounds a lot like an outwardly directed version of “Let it be to me according to your word.”

But there is more.

The problem was really quite defined. No guesswork involved as to the nature of the need or the human perplexity as to how to meet it. They had run out of wine before they ran out of party. The anxious moments behind the happy communal occasion were not earth-shattering in the vast panorama of human existence. Yet here, in the quiet, unobtrusive moments of a family’s crisis where human limitations were only obvious to a few behind-the-scenes-players-here began the miracle of Jesus entering into the heart of human anxiety.

But not before his mother tasted a bit of that anxiety as well. Was she perplexed with her son’s response? She certainly doesn’t get an immediate response. And she has had eighteen years to adjust to the rules of engagements her twelve-year-old had once ushered her into: I must be about my Father’s business.

So there she is: friends anxious over the wine they cannot produce out of thin air, Mary intimating that Jesus might step in, only to be reminded that he answered to a higher authority. But if Mary is at all anxious or perplexed, it is only for a moment. Her rebound is such a lovely example of what Hans ur von Balthasar calls the “the passage from light to light.” She knows he can help. She does not know if, when, or how he will act. But in the meantime, she re-directs the attention of the servants. Keep your focus on Jesus and wait.

There is another kind of response we can make in those all-too-human moments when we are confronted with our human limitations. We can allow the dark moments of uncertainty to become a condition rather than a passage. There’s no more wine (or money, or job, or relationship). And we can get stuck in the darkness, struggling to find another supplier, setting up our own tenuous securities, building bigger wine cellars.

When anxiety is a condition rather than a passage we will do ANYTHING to deny that behind the façade we are finite mortals who will find our greatest freedom and joy in dependence, not independence, on bringing our need to Jesus, rather than seeking other ways to replenish the wine at the wedding.

A nd, of course, when Jesus acts-in his own way and in his own time, in response to dependent human need, the wine is SO much better.

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