Cana, Mary and the Cross
Cana, Mary and the Cross

Cana, Mary and the Cross

Fr Philip Harris explores the mystery of Mary, the Cross and the Mass in a sermon based on the Wedding at Cana

Our Lord’s first miracle or sign that he gave in Cana was the turning of the water into wine – in fact a super-abundance of good wine, symbolic of God’s grace which is offered to us through the sacraments instituted by Christ. This first miracle happened though through the faith of one person: none other than the Lord’s Mother and our Mother – the Blessed Virgin Mary. She had faith in her Son. Her simple ‘Do whatever he tells you’ sets into motion her Son’s instruction to the servants to fill the water jars with water and then take some to the steward.

St John’s account of the Wedding at Cana comes right at the beginning of Our Lord’s public ministry. It has striking parallels, though, with the account of Our Lord’s crucifixion. At the beginning of his ministry, Our Blessed Lady is present, referred to as the “mother of Jesus” and addressed as “Woman”. As her Son hung on the Cross, St John would tell us that she was there too and again, she is again addressed by her Son as “Woman”. Present too are his disciples at Cana and we are told that next to his Mother at Calvary stood the beloved disciple, St John himself. The water at Cana is turned into wine; on the Cross, water and blood would flow from Our Lord’s side as the centurion pierced his heart with his spear.

Fast forward two thousand years to today, here in this parish. We are here for only one reason: because Jesus is the lynch pin of history, and indeed of eternity. His public ministry which began after his visit to Cana involved healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, opening the ears of the deaf and the mouths of the dumb, raising the dead and much, much more. But all of that would matter little if it weren’t for the Cross. For it is his death on the Cross that changes the very meaning of history and the very meaning of our lives and the life of every baptised Christian who has lived or ever will live.

His death on the Cross, far from being a cruel and bitter defeat of a good man with his sad Mother and beloved disciple standing by, is instead the one true, the only acceptable Sacrifice that could change our relationship with God and with each other. For Jesus is God’s love come into the world, not merely to do good and work signs and wonders but to do the ultimate good – to bridge the gap between us as fallen humanity and our Creator. That is the true miracle that his first sign in Cana is pointing to: the overthrowing of the chasm that lay between us and his Father. And it is the Cross that spans that chasm, yes with Jesus’ pierced hands and feet nailed to it, his scourged back and his head bloody with thorns and finally his heart pouring out water and blood as it is pierced. Such is God’s love for us that he gives himself as the saving Sacrifice that reunites us with him.

That same saving Sacrifice is present down through the ages even to today here and beyond into the future, because of God’s great love for each one of us. Jesus gives himself today in this place, on this altar for you, for me, for each
one of us.

It is no coincidence at Mass that as the priest prepares the chalice he says inaudibly as he adds just a drop of water to the wine: “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” For that is what we are celebrating, the Sacrifice that raises us from the darkness of this world into eternal life and
fellowship with God in heaven, making us sharers in God’s life, partakers of his divinity.

Here, though we can see it only with veiled eyes, here the Cross upon which hangs the Crucified one, stretches from this altar to the very heart of God. Here, we stand beside the beloved disciple and the Woman who gazed upon her Son as He gave his life for us. Here then, the Sacrifice of our redemption is once more made present and once more floods into our lives and, just for a moment, time and eternity stand side by side.

After the Cross would come the burial and then the joyous discovery of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. The Lord’s Resurrection shows us what our future is to be: for we, too, share both in his death and resurrection. We die to ourselves and we will be raised to new and eternal life with the God who is love in heaven.

At Cana, Mary says, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Far from leaving us without a guide when Jesus ascended to his Father forty days after his Resurrection, He sent us a helper, the third Person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. Mary’s words tell us what we must do: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ For, being loved and saved by her Son, we still have to live our lives in this world. ‘There are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose,  writes St Paul.

What is the Holy Spirit saying to you in your life? What gifts and talents has he given you? How is He asking you to live your life, to serve God and his Church? ‘Do whatever he tells you,’ Mary says. May we listen to God speaking in our hearts and lives, and, giving thanks for the wonderful promise of eternal life, live our lives as God’s people, as people, we hope and pray, on their way to

Fr Phillip Pennington Harris is parish priest of English Martyrs Church,
Didcot, Oxfordshire.

Faith Magazine

May-June 2022