Now in those days among the Jews a wedding celebration was usually held at the home of the groom and often lasted a week or more. As you might imagine this involved a lot of food and a lot of wine. For as the rabbis happily tell us, "Where there is no wine, there is no joy."
Mary was probably a friend of the family, and she might well have helped with the preparations for the feast. And so she notices the potential embarrassment of the family running out of wine. Nobody asks her to help. After all, what could she possibly do? But her heart is stirred; she pities the unfortunate couple and she acts as an intercessor, a mediator with her Son.
But Mary doesn't ask Jesus for a miracle, does she? At least not directly. She merely tells Him: "They have no wine" [Jn 2:3].
With this simple statement Mary teaches us the basics of intercessory prayer. We need only state the problem and then let God decide how best to solve it. Too often we find ourselves telling God how to do things, as if we're the boss and he's the employee.
Jesus, of course, knows full well what Mary is asking and replies with words that seem strange to us:
"Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come" [Jn 2:4].
"Woman, behold, your son" [Jn 19:26]; and to John himself: "Behold your mother" [Jn 19:27].Also a better translation of Jesus' comment might be as St. Jerome translates it into Latin: "Quid mihi et tibi?" or "What to me and thee?" or perhaps, "What are you asking of me?" We can almost hear Jesus saying, "Oh, is it that time already? Is the Father asking you to introduce me to men?"
Indeed, just consider Mary's indispensable role in God's plan for humanity. She is present at both of His human beginnings: the Incarnation and His public ministry. But she is not merely present. It is Mary's word, her fiat to Gabriel that permits the Incarnation. And it is her word at Cana that launches Jesus into His ministry. This very human request at a wedding feast begins His public journey to His "hour" - the hour of His salvific Passion, Death and Resurrection.
Her last words in Scripture are spoken here at Cana, and offer us a perfect summation of her role: "Do whatever He tells you" [Jn 2:5]. Here and in every encounter with Mary in Scripture, she points always to her Son, offering us a permanent invitation to obey Christ in all things.
We can safely assume that God's plan included Jesus working this miracle at His Mother's request, since the Holy Spirit saw fit to include it in John's Gospel. And as the sinless one, she strives always to do the Father's will.
Here at Cana is the Father speaking through her to her Son, to His Son? "Now is the time, my Son. Your saving mission begins today."
Did God place the "hour" of Jesus into Mary's hands, just as He placed the Incarnation itself into her hands? I've always thought so.
Let us never forget that Mary is the new Eve, the symbol of the Church, the one who will protect the Church, interceding for it with her Son. And just as she does at Cana, she will intercede for us even when she isn't asked.