My Protestant sister says that Jesus rebuked Mary when she urged him to start his ministry at the wedding in Cana. She says he complied only because of his great compassion. How are we to view his words to Mary? And what is the significance of Jesus calling his mother “woman”?
The term Woman recalls the protoevangelium in the Book of Genesis:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (Gen. 3:15).
Jesus also uses Woman again at the Crucifixion when he gives his Mother to John to be John’s Mother, and by extension the Mother of all Christians:
When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home (John 19:26-27).
In the ancient world, Woman was a title of respect (Antony is said to have called Cleopatra “Woman”) and can be considered roughly equivalent to calling a modern noblewoman “Lady Diana.” By calling his Mother “Woman,” Jesus was showing Mary great respect and dignity.
As for the wedding at Cana, Jesus’ concern was not to rebuke his Mother but to remind her that beginning his public ministry would begin his road to Calvary because in the Gospel of John Jesus’ use of the word hour (e.g., “My hour has not yet come” John 2:4]) refers to the time of Christ’s passion, crucifixion, and death. What Christ is saying then is “Mother, if I do this miracle for you and for this couple, thus manifesting my identity as the Messiah, my Via Dolorosa * will begin. Knowing that, do you really want me to do this?” In response, Mary tells the servants, “Do whatever he [Christ] tells you” (John 2:5).
Refuting the Attack on Mary** by Fr. Mateo*