“Now don’t you be minding him! You just do whatever he tells you to do,” Mary says to the catering staff while giving Jesus a pointed stare. He hears the silent message in her eyes, “Stop messin’ and just help. I don’t care right now if you don’t think it’s ‘your time.’ It’s not like we don’t know you can.” She gives one last sweet smile and heads into the party leaving Jesus alone with a very confused staff who are, by now, a little embarrassed.
The grade 12 literature class I took was one of the most unusual learning experiences of my life. As we studied Shakespeare we also had classes that involved clearing the desks and chairs away so we could learn a medieval dance while our teacher strummed his lyre. We learnt about the Wheel of Fortune and illnesses in the 16th century so that the humour and solemnity in Shakespeare’s dialogue would flow through the words into our imagination with a clearer understanding. When it came time to involve an audience in A Midsummer Night’s Dream we were able to succeed. Shakespeare became accessible and relevant, even in a school that was nicknamed ‘skid row’.
It was our understanding that led to a living interpretation that an audience could understand.
This past week I laughed out loud as I was read through the book of John for the umpteenth time. My attention snagged on this story of Jesus at the wedding in Cana, where he turns the water into wine. Out of nowhere, Mary suddenly materialised into this Irish mammy taking control of the situation and telling everyone what to do. I had never seen her in this story as anything but an underdeveloped character in Jesus’ shadow. Two worlds collided as my knowledge of Jesus’ story and my experience of Dublin’s story entered from opposite directions.
One of my professors in college would read to us at the start of the class. The words he read were the original Greek of New Testament texts. The words that came out of his mouth made his knowledge of the Greek meanings relevant to us in that moment. The words of that book are life to me. I want others to discover what I have so I pursue understanding and allow the two cultures to collide in the middle.
It is amazing what we can discover when the bridge of interpretation is crossed.
So what can we learn now from Mammy Mary? Mothers – you can cut yourself a bit of slack. Even the mother of God interfered when she might not have supposed to (and he was 30!). Adult children – cut your mothers a bit of slack. Even the mother of God told him what to do when they were out in public. All of us – although Jesus’ first public miracle was turning water into wine it probably wasn’t his first miracle. Who knows, maybe everyone in town loved going to dinner at Mary and Joseph’s whenever Jesus was there because they always had the best wine around. Mary obviously knew that Jesus could do this.