Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Would Mary Do?

Most of you have probably seen the clever wrist band made famous by innumerable youth groups that has WWJD on them. This stands for “What Would Jesus Do?” The point, as used by youth leaders all over the country, is to get teenagers to think what Jesus would do if faced with their circumstances and situations.

While I think this is clever, I have never really warmed to the slogan. It is not that I cannot think of what Jesus would do in many situations. My problem is that I can. For example, I attend a funeral, WWJD? He would raise the dead. Or, I visit a sick person, WWJD? He would heal them. Or, I am faced with evil, WWJD? He would drive it out. Nor is my problem that I do not believe that some Christians are called upon to do such things. I do. I just do not think his behavior is normative for us as believers. (My wife does tell me that I often confuse my job description with that of the Messiah, but that is a dysfunctional issue, not one of faith.) No, my issue is that Jesus did many things that I cannot do. I think the better wrist band would be WWMD, What Would Mary Do? On this eve of the Annunciation, let me say why.

Mary is the prime example in scripture of God’s faithful servant. When the Angel announced to her that she would be in instrument of God’s grace, overwhelming as it might have been, her faithful response was, “be it to me the servant of the Lord” or as the Beatles would translate it, “let it be.” Sure, the message to Mary was startling. It may have been hard for her to fully comprehend. Yes, and maybe she was a young girl, but she was also smart enough and realistic enough to immediately understand the difficult of the call. “How can this be,” she asked because, “I am still a virgin.” She knew her circumstances. She clearly understood her situation that she was to be a pregnant, unmarried woman in a small village where everyone could talk and certainly everyone could count. She understood this would be humiliating.

And what was she to say to Joseph? “Joseph, it is ok, an angel told me in a dream that I would get pregnant by the Holy Spirit before we were married?” In the scriptural account, all that she could do was leave this up to God.

Devotional writers have often portrayed Mary as the idealized image of passive femininity who acted out perfect submission, but this is not the Mary of the biblical narrative. She was human. She was not perfect, and as the Magnificat reveals, she was not passive. But mostly, she was faithful. Mary believed what the Angel told her and she trusted by faith that God would work out all the details. We could very aptly paraphrase Paul’s words about Abraham applied to Mary, “She believed God and God reckoned it to her as righteousness.“

What then would WWMD mean to us? It would mean that faced with difficult decisions or moral choices, we need only ask what would Mary, who believed God and trusted God, do in this situation. This is something that I can imagine in all sorts of situations. It seems to me that the whole life of a disciple essentially is to believe God’s promises by faith and live as though God will work out all the details.

This might not be as catchy or as clever, but it does make a lot more sense to me as I struggle as a believer and disciple in the many circumstances and situations that I must face in this world. As we remember the feast day of the Annunciation, we could do a lot worse than remember to ask ourselves WWMD?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I have had the same problem of knowing that I couldn't do what Jesus would've done, although I tried to imagine what Jesus would've wanted me to do in these circumstances. But thinking about WWMD is a wonderful idea. I think of her as fully human and truly faithful, and though she was strong she was not perfect. "What would Mary do?" seems both more possible and more theologically apt. Thank you.