REV FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
What do you think? Is there marriage in heaven? I would answer, “Yes and No,” based on the Bible. No, there is no marriage in heaven; Jesus said so in Matthew 22: 23ff when some Sadducees came to ask him a question about heaven just to put him to the test. They brought up some hypothetical situation of a woman who had seven husbands, one after the other, and they all died. She had no child for any of them. They wanted Jesus to tell them who would be her husband in the life to come. Jesus answered that they were wrong in thinking that there would be marriage in heaven.
On the other hand, I would say, “Yes, there is marriage in heaven,” based on the Bible. A careful look at the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation shows that all we are doing here on earth is a rehearsal, a preparation for the marriage in heaven. In the book of Genesis, at the beginning of creation, we had the marriage of Adam and Eve, and at the end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, we find the wedding feast of the Lamb, where Jesus is the Groom, and the Church is the Bride. Between these two marriages, we have so many other marriages in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God is presented as the Groom, while Israel is the Bride. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ, who came to reveal God to humanity, becomes the Groom, and the Church, which is the New Israel, becomes the Bride. So, not only would I say that there is marriage in heaven, but that marriage is all that happens in heaven. If you think of marriage from the point of view of this man being married to this woman and the other man being married to the other woman, there is no such marriage in heaven. The marriage that is in heaven is such that God is the only Groom, and all of us form the Bride, and it will be an eternal marriage.
It was a smooth relationship between God and his creatures in the beginning, but due to the sin of Adam and Eve, there was a break in the relationship. Jesus came to bring about the reconciliation between the Groom and the Bride in preparation for the eternal marriage. That is why at the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, the changing of water to wine, which we have in today’s gospel passage.
The miracle at the wedding feast at Cana is a very rich story in the Bible, and we can spend the whole day unpacking it, but for today, I would like us to focus just on the conversation between Jesus and his mother, Mary. She came to Jesus and said to him, “They have no wine.” They just ran out of wine! Water an embarrassment! It was not the steward that noticed that there was no wine, it was not the groom, not the bride, not any immediate family member; it was the Blessed Virgin Mary. She immediately ran to Jesus to inform him. So, from the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus, Mary already began to play her intercessory role, to notice what was lacking and to inform her Son for intervention. Jesus said to Mary, “Woman, how does that concern us now? My hour has not yet come.” The response of Jesus to Mary has undergone so many misinterpretations, and has brought about so many controversies regarding the relationship between Jesus and Mary. What did Jesus mean by his hour? When we continue to read the gospel according to John, we will see that the hour of Jesus is the hour of his glorification, through his passion, through his cross, through his death, through his resurrection, and his ascension into heaven.
Jesus turned to his mom and said, “Woman, my hour has not yet come.” The fact that Jesus addressed her as woman has got so many people talking. They argue that Jesus was not respectful of his mother. Last Sunday when we celebrated the feast of the Baptism of Jesus, we said that Jesus has come as the second Adam to repair the guilt of the first Adam. He came to repair what was broken by the first Adam. Since the first Adam had a woman, it was necessary for the Second Adam to have a woman. The Blessed Virgin Mary is that woman. The first Adam called Eve “Woman.” Now, that the Second Adam is at the beginning of undoing what the first Adam broke, he is inviting Mary, the New Eve, to take her proper role as “Woman.”
Archbishop Fulton Sheen helps us to understand this story by calling our attention to the fact that the wedding feast at Cana was a rehearsal for Calvary. There is a clear connection between this wedding feast and what will happen at Calvary. When Jesus used the title, “Woman” for his mother, he was implying, “Are you ready for what you are getting me into? Do you realize that when I perform this miracle my divine identity is going to be revealed to the world and that will change our relationship forever? You will no longer be mother to only me, you will be woman, the mother of all that I have come to save. Are you ready for that?” When Jesus gets on the Cross on Calvary, he is going to call Mary by the same name, woman, and he would say “Behold your son,” referring to John, who represents all of us, and then to John he would say, “Behold your mother.” So, by Mary encouraging Jesus to perform this miracle at the wedding at Cana, she was letting go of that exclusive relationship she had with Jesus, and she was opening herself up to embracing the entire world and to taking up the responsibility of becoming the New Eve, the Mother of all men and women. When Mary came to tell Jesus that there was no wine, there was some hesitation from the humanity of Jesus. He was trying to pull back, he did not seem to be ready for the battle. But Mary encouraged him to go on. Similarly, at Gethsemane, the humanity of Jesus will fight saying, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by,” but his Father will encourage him to carry on. You see how his earthly parent mirrors his heavenly parent? Both of them encourage Jesus to carry on.
Fulton Sheen also draws our attention to the fact that Mary spoke seven times in the Bible, and the last time she spoke was at the wedding feast at Cana when she turned to the servers and said to them, “Do whatever he tells you!” This shows that the Blessed Virgin Mary is not in competition with Jesus. As soon as she was able to reveal Jesus, her role became that of directing people to Jesus. As Catholics, when we pray through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she is not taking the place of Jesus, rather she is helping us to get to Jesus.
Today the gospel passage shows the first miracle performed by Jesus, the changing of water to wine. At the wedding feast, they ran out of wine. Many times in life, we also run out of wine. Families run out of that initial love and bond they had, priests and religious run out of their initial zeal for their vocation. People run out of the will to live. All Mary needed to do was to tell Jesus, “They have no wine,” and the story changed for good. Let us pray for all broken homes and relationships, let us pray for all priests and religious who are in crisis, let us pray for all who are in despair because they have lost all interest in life, that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus may bring about restoration in them, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.