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Our readers asked:

Why does Jesus call his mother “woman” in the Wedding at Cana story?

Joe Paprocki Answers:

At first glance, this would seem to be a very impersonal manner for Jesus to address his own mother. It should be noted, however, that Jesus uses the same term when he speaks to Mary from the Cross, saying, “Woman, behold your son.” (John 19:26) Likewise, he uses the term often when speaking to other women (e.g. Mt 15:28; Luke 22:57; John 4:21)

For a Jewish man to refer to his mother as “woman” would not be considered rude or disrespectful, however, it would suggest a distancing between the two. This is not inconsistent with how Jesus responds in Matthew 12:48-50 when he is told that his mother and family members were outside asking to speak to him:

“But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

By distancing himself from his mother, Jesus makes it very clear that family ties are not what cause him to act but rather, the will of his Father in heaven.

The Author : Joe Paprocki
Joe Paprocki, D.Min., is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press in Chicago. He has over 30 years of experience in pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Joe is the author of numerous books on pastoral ministry and catechesis, including The Bible Blueprint, Living the Mass, and bestsellers The Catechist's Toolbox and A Well-Built Faith (all from Loyola Press).
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Amal Daz

    I’m not saying Mary good or bad.. But I can’t pray to her.. Because I have a living God.. “JESUS” I can’t request dead one to pray for me… If I offend any religious.. I apologize…

  • JesusTruck

    Steve’s comment about Jesus referring twice to Mary as woman as a confirmation of her sinless state is dead on.

  • Tre laforce

    My teacher said that the word woman was used by jesus to show utmost respect and love for his mother, but now, in our world today the use of woman has changed.

  • Daniel Kuykendall

    I also feel that it was not that Jesus was not showing distance to his family. I feel as though it was more like Jesus showing a closeness to us.

  • Pat

    I was told that “woman” was a title of respect. Mary was an integral part of our Redemption (although she will always point to her Son as the Redeemer, I think). I also believe that Mary and Jesus shared a most abundant love for the other. I picture Mary has the one person in her Son’s life who fully understood His Purpose and was there with her love and support throughout Jesus’ life, Passion, and Cruicifixion. She was His supported and … Mother.

  • Steve

    The use of the word “woman” also has important implications when looking at its use in the other scriptural books. I had looked at this curious language myself and found a helpful (and short) answer on Catholic.com.

    Before the fall of Adam of Eve, Eve had not yet received her name. Instead, she was just referred to as “Woman.” After the fall, God promised the advent of another “woman” in Genesis 3:15, or a “New Eve” who would oppose Lucifer, and whose “seed” would crush his head. This “woman” and “her seed” would reverse the curse, so to speak, that the original “man” and “woman” had brought upon humanity through their disobedience.

    When we then look at the New Covenant, Jesus is explicitly referred to as the “last Adam,” or the “New Adam” in 1 Cor. 15:45. And Jesus himself indicates that Mary is the prophetic “woman” or “New Eve” of Genesis 3:15 when he refers to his mother as “woman” in John 2:4 and 19:26. Moreover, St. John refers to Mary as “woman” eight times in Revelation 12. As the first Eve brought death to all of her children through disobedience and heeding the words of the ancient serpent, the devil, the “New Eve” of Revelation 12 brings life and salvation to all of her children through her obedience. The same “serpent” who deceived the original woman of Genesis is revealed, in Revelation 12, to fail in his attempt to overcome this new woman. The New Eve overcomes the serpent and as a result, “The serpent is angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God, and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).

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