Jesus among the Doctors – Duccio di Buoninsegna
When Jesus was 12 years old he and His parents went to Jerusalem for Passover. When they began their return trip to Nazareth Jesus and His parents became separated. Finally Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple; “they were astonished; and his mother said to him…”
1st Conversation (Luke 2.48-51)
Mary: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”
Jesus: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Mary was distraught. But Jesus had the last word in this brief exchange. Then they left together; “And he went down with them…” Apparently they both took the conversation to heart: Jesus “was obedient to them”, and “his mother kept all these things in her heart.”
Wedding at Cana – Duccio di Buoninsegna
About 18 years later at the outset of our Lord’s public ministry they had another conversation in Cana at a wedding feast. The account starts out; “On the third day….” This is interesting because the prior conversation considered above was introduced as follows: “After three days they found him…” The wedding feast becomes remarkable because they ran out of wine, and the conversation is initiated out of concern for the newly married couple.
2nd Conversation (John 2.3-8)
Mary: “They have no wine.”
Jesus: “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
Did Mary learn a lesson from the last conversation? She now limits herself to a mere four words. Jesus calls her “woman”; the same title that Eve was given by Adam (Gen 2.23). And again Jesus gets the last word. Or does He? They now both turn away from each other and address the servants (who represent the Church)….
Mary: “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus: “Fill the jars with water…..Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.”
Remember those later miracles when Jesus instructs individuals to go to the Priest so that the healing can be officially ‘verified’? Similarly, Jesus sends the servants to the steward, and as John points out, this was “the first of his signs”. Apparently, His hour had arrived – it coincided with a marriage ceremony and prefigured His own relationship to His Bride, the Church. With four words Mary becomes a match-maker. And once again, mother and son leave together; “After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and…..” He is going out on His own, with His disciples, but we see Mary and Jesus in sync, working together, in unison.
All three conversations are associated with a feast day celebration; the first and third with Passover. When Jesus is on the cross, He sees His mother and ‘the disciple whom he loved’ standing near. This time, Mary – who is again distraught – is actually silent, but we might say that figuratively – or rather mystically – she “speaks” to her son from her heart….. perhaps through her eyes…. The scene unfolds with our Lord’s eyes, or gaze; “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother……”
3rd Conversation (Jn 19.26-27)
Jesus: “Woman, behold, your son!”
Jesus again calls her “woman”; this time it certainly seems to be like a title, because it takes on the semblance of a “last will and testament”. And Jesus has the last word. From the cross, now close to death, He draws the Church into His personal conversation with His mother. “Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’” In their ‘2nd conversation’ it was Mary who drew the Church into the conversation with her son. This time Jesus draws the Church into the conversation. The account ends with these words: “And from that hour the disciple took her (Mary) to his own home.” So Mary (“woman”) becomes Mother to the Church, as Eve (“woman”) was “the mother of all living” (Gen 3.20).
Jesus dies, and according to tradition, He is placed in His mother’s arms, so once again they ‘leave’ together at the conclusion of the conversation. Unlike the prior two conversations, that were preceded by ‘three days’, this conversation signals the beginning of the ‘three days’ until His resurrection.
But in a way, Christ’s entire life was like an intimate conversation with humanity: “And the Word became flesh…” within Mary’s womb. As the Word of God, Jesus Christ had been conversing with His Mother from that very first day, and their conversation continues even now, and as the Church, we too are invited to join in – through prayer and love – as servants, as beloved disciples. We are especially invited to join in the ‘dialogue of the Church with her Lord’ in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass which recalls Passover, and in all the other sacraments such as Holy Matrimony.