17th JANUARY 2016
John 2:1-11 Corinthians 12:4-11
Tony van Vuuren

The story of the wedding at Cana has been carefully structured by John; almost every phrase is layered with different levels of meaning and the text gives much material for personal meditation and discussion; the story is about much more than a miracle at a wedding feast. Amongst others it is also about discipleship and ministry. John’s Gospel does not record the birth of Christ; and so Mary’s first appearance in his Gospel is not in the stable, but at a wedding, where her function is to complete the call of the disciples. She is the catalyst for the sign that leads to the disciples’ expression of faith that John records; “And they believed in Him.’

Mary is the first disciple and speaks the words of a true disciple who believes when she says; “Do whatever he tells you.” John depicts Mary being involved at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as at the wedding feast at Cana and again at the end of it on Calvary. The Gospels show that she was involved at all the key moments in Jesus’ life on earth.

At the Annunciation she was asked if she would become the mother of the Saviour. She set aside her own plans and said a generous yes to what God asked. Ministry sometimes means being willing to set aside our own plans, and to answer a call to lend a hand.

At the Visitation Mary took the initiative. On hearing that her elderly cousin was expecting a baby, she visited her, staying until baby John was born. Ministry sometimes means taking the initiative ; seeing a need , and responding to it.

At Cana we see Mary’s sensitivity. She noticed that the wine had run out, threatening to ruin the occasion for the young couple. She wanted to help but realised she couldn’t do it herself. So she turned to her Son and asked Him for help, which He did with great generosity. Ministry at times means noticing a need, but realising that we can’t handle it ourselves, so we refer it to others who can deal with it. This is not the same as passing the buck!

During His public life Jesus was surrounded by crowds. Mary didn’t understand what he was about, and she feared he was being taken over. As a mother she felt compelled to rescue him. He declined. She of course had misread the situation. He had a job to do. Ministry can involve making mistakes and experiencing frustration and failure. But this is not due to a lack of concern, but a lack of understanding.

On Calvary Mary stood at the foot of the cross, watching Jesus die. Though she must have desperately wanted to save Him, but she was powerless to do so. Sometimes in ministry there is nothing we can do in a situation. So our only ministry is like that of Mary at the foot of the cross……a silent supportive presence. A reassuring, supportive presence can mean the world to someone who is suffering. It saves them from the awful prospective of feeling abandoned.

These are only glimpses. But we can form a picture of Mary…..that of a caring, loving person. A concerned, loving mother. Mary is the model of ministry and discipleship. But her role must always be seen in relation to that of her Son, Jesus. Her role now is that of a mother caring for those who follow him. “Do whatever He tells you.” She says to us.

All of us are in ministry in one way or another; towards one another, in our families, in the wider community. Ministry may mean giving or facilitating something, like at Cana, but more often it is about giving of ourselves. We must be ready for frustration, misunderstanding, sometimes failure and powerlessness. But the only thing we have to fear is our indifference.

No particular skills are needed. It comes down to love. Ministry is an expression of love! Paul talks about giftedness — specifically gifts from the Holy Spirit. We are told that to each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. Do we really believe that we have ALL of the spiritual gifts and forms of service that the Spirit has to give? In those times when I am angry, do I have that patience and gentleness within me? In those times that I feel self-righteous, do I have mercy within me? In those times when I am scared of the consequences of my actions, can I be truthful? Many of us live in a world where personal gifts remain hidden, where expressing God-given gifts is suppressed for fear that it will look showy or ego-driven, where a false humility is actually empowered by fear and it causes us to politely return our gifts unopened.

We need to look at each God-given gift as being given to us to be shared with others. This is not a time to be paralyzed by fear. It is a time to accept the gifts and spread their power through our ministry and discipleship. Going public with our potential transforms us in ways that can never be withdrawn; just “do whatever He tells us.” Just as the water was turned into wine; let our ministry be transformed from the ordinary to the extraordinary!

John makes it clear that Mary is special even though he doesn’t name her. She could actually get Jesus to change his mind. Mary’s close relationship with Jesus is the primary reason why she is such a powerful intercessor. It’s why the Church invites us to go to her with all of our needs and ask her to “pray for us sinners.” You can just imagine the scene in heaven described by a popular legend: if Mary is talking to Jesus about all the different prayer requests that people have entrusted to her, all the other saints have to wait until she is done before they bring their prayers to him. Mary always gets Jesus’ undivided attention!

Like the ascending and descending ladder in Jacob’s dream, Mary is a link between heaven and earth. She loves to take our intercessions and our petitions to Jesus. At the same time, she delights in receiving grace and blessings from heaven and planting them in our hearts. So let us bring our needs to the one who is full of grace. And try our best to listen when she says, “Do whatever Jesus tells you.”

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.”


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