Dominica 2 post Epiphaniam / Evening, 14 January 2017 / Church of St John / Agawam
“Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come” (Jn 2:4).
As we consider the centenary of the apparitions at Fatima throughout the coming year, it would do us some good to be sure-footed, theologically speaking. To that end, today the Church gives us an important Gospel passage to consider, one that helps a great deal to begin to understand Fatima in a way that is right thinking. Of Cana and Fatima.
We all know the narrative of Cana’s wedding feast. The wine is running short. We know how we feel when we consider the prospect of being underprepared for a gathering we host; even today this would be discourteous and embarrassing. But for a culture that prized hospitality so much more deeply than does ours, when wedding feasts lasted for days and were a much more formal affair, when times of celebration were all the more precious because life was in so many ways more difficult, running out of wine or some other provision would prove more than simply embarrassing, but socially disastrous.
It is into this context that we observe the action of the Mother of God.—Mary intervenes during times of crisis. Our Lady is a woman accustomed to pondering things in her Immaculate Heart, and so little surprise that she takes great interest in the impending disgrace of her hosts. With the strong solicitude of the best of mothers, she intervenes with the very one she knows will be able to act: her only Son. She does this, and all is made well.
We observe further. Christ becomes aware of the failing wine and is, in a certain sense, outwardly unaffected: Quid mihi et tibi est, múlier? Not only is Christ seemingly unaffected, but he gives a reason: nondum venit hora mea. Christ does not lie: that was not the moment for his public manifestation. But his mother speaks next.—To the head waiter she says, Quodcúmque díxerit vobis, fácite. And they do.
Christ heeds his mother. He admits that this was not the moment to reveal himself and yet he acts. We see, with perfect clarity, that he has given over a certain degree of agency to his Mother: she is no mere spectator in the work of redemption.
One classical Protestant interpreter says this about today’s Gospel. Referring to Mary, he pains himself to express her ignorance:
Even when Mary did not understand what Jesus was going to do, even when it seemed that he had refused her request, Mary still believed him so much that she turned to the serving folk and told them to do whatever. Mary had faith that could trust even when it did not understand. She did not know what Jesus was going to do, but she was quite sure that he would do the right thing.
Respectfully, the Gospel text does not warrant this or any similar interpretation.—It is thin biblical interpretation at best, dare I say blasphemous at worst. There is no biblical evidence that suggests Mary is ignorant and powerless. On the contrary, John the Evangelist is exceedingly conservative when he records the episode: we learn the wine runs out; Mary notices and beseeches Christ; he pauses; she acts; then he acts. That is the sequence and we need to take that seriously, without dishonest interpolations.
Having understood that, and with regard to the apparitions of Fatima, we can make an important observation. It is clear that the private revelations (so-called) that were given to Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia are in no way inconsistent with what we already know from sacred scripture. The visionaries of Fatima reveal to us the same truth about our Lady already demonstrated at Cana: the Immaculate Virgin acts during times of crisis; Jesus her Son has invested her with the power to do so.
Dear friends, human history is like a courtship between God and his creation—between him and the soul, between him and the Church, between him and the world. By his grace and mercy, this courtship is meant to terminate and be consummated in the wedding banquet of the Beatific Vision. Truly, Jesus and Mary preside over the wedding feast that is the spiritual life of the Church: what is definitely revealed at Cana is repeated at Fatima.