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Our readers asked:

Why does Jesus refer to Mary as “woman” at the wedding feast at Cana?

Ginny Kubitz Moyer Answers:

At the wedding feast at Cana, when Mary tells Jesus that there is no more wine, Jesus responds, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour is not yet come.” (John 2:4). Although this form of address sounds harsh and rude to modern ears, “woman” was actually a term of respect and honor at the time. That said, it was still a rather unusual thing for a person to call his mother. The footnotes to the New American Bible indicate that this verse may seek to show that Jesus did not do miracles to help family and friends; in other words, his response to Mary might indicate that he did not intend to “play favorites.”

On a related note, many scholars have pointed out that this is not the only time that Jesus calls Mary “woman. “ When he is dying on the cross, he indicates the beloved disciple and says to Mary, “Woman, behold your Son.” (John 19:26). The fact that the same form of address is used both at the beginning and end of Jesus’ public ministry has a symbolic significance and helps link two important events in Jesus’ life. As the National Conference of Catholic Bishops explain in their pastoral letter Behold Your Mother: Woman of Faith:

“In the Gospel of St. John, the Mother of Jesus appears at Cana and Calvary, the beginning and the end of her Son’s public life. Both times Jesus addresses her as ‘woman.’ Each scene turns on a special ‘hour.’ At Cana, the hour refers to the beginning of the messianic ministry that ‘has not yet come’ (John 2:4), yet which commences in this ‘first of his signs’ that Jesus worked at Mary’s request. At Calvary, we have the arrival of the great Johannine hour when Jesus ‘will be lifted up and draw all men’ to himself (John12:32). It is moreover ‘on the third day’ that the wedding feast takes place, and ‘the third day’ is the fulfillment of the sacred time of the Paschal Mystery. What began at Cana achieved its consummation on Calvary.”

The Author : Ginny Kubitz Moyer
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is the author of the award-winning book Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area and blogs at randomactsofmomness.com.
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