When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:3-5
We recently had a retreat in our Diocese to kick off the start of a new Religious Education school year. We were blessed to have Dr. Ryan Hanning as our retreat leader.
Doctor Hanning gave us a talk on the Assumption of Mary. In his talk, he said something that dumbfounded me a bit until I thought about it more. He said Mary knew exactly who she was and what her strengths and weaknesses were. What had dumbfounded me was that I had never really thought of Mary having weaknesses. This is because Mary is sinless. Yet, weakness isn’t sinning. So, of course, his statement made perfect sense.
I left pondering this all the way home. Mary was a human being with gifts that God gave her. It had just never occurred to me that there could be something she wasn’t good at. Scripture doesn’t tell us everything Mary did, but it tells us enough so that we know she really DID KNOW who she was and what her strengths and weaknesses were. She knew Joseph could protect her from her own society and she willingly followed his direction to flee to Egypt.
What Would Mary Do?
Then I thought about the wedding at Cana. Here the couple has run out of wine. Mary, like a good Mother, notices. What does she do? She advocates for them. This is because she knows who can fix the situation. Jesus tells her His hour has not yet come, but she continues with her advocacy and she says, “do whatever He tells you.”
This statement and Jesus’ response tells us so much. It tells us she knows who can fix the situation, that Jesus will listen to her, and that Jesus wants our cooperation. But it tells us even more. When Jesus says to the servants to fill the jars with water, we don’t see Mary running to grab a jar and fill it. The servants are to whom she and Jesus both spoke. By this action, these servants are about to partake in and witness a miracle. His first miracle. How many of us today want to do absolutely everything ourselves and be good at all of it?
Realizing Mary’s Example
There was a point in my life where I think I could have pictured myself in this story knocking over the servants to get to the jar to fill it up, all the while I declare, “I am doing God’s will!” But if we cannot include the other members of the Mystical Body in our action to do God’s will and we try to go it alone, we actually aren’t doing what He asks. In our independent society, we actually have a hard time grasping this, and we get envious when someone else has a skill that we don’t have. Or even worse, we become ashamed. But remember, it isn’t a sin to not have a skill, the sin is in the envy of the other who does or getting stuck in the shame of it.
I am going to give you a recent example from my own life. I am not a good cook. I also am not great at knowing proper decor for parties. I have friends who are good at both of these things. It used to be that if I was going to have people over my family wanted to leave my house. The yelling and lamenting that took place to get the place clean, find the right napkins, and to cook my one decent meal, well, it ran my family off. Over time I have realized that while I am hospitable, hospitality in the area of preparing is not something I am actually good at. It is a weakness.
One day a few months ago I decided to have a dinner party. My friend, who is excellent at hospitality and decorating for these things offered to come help. I told her I would get back to her. I immediately hung up the phone and went into shame mode. The voices in my head barraging me, “she is a way better cook than you, you can never be that good. She will see how incompetent you are at doing things.” I realized rather quickly that I was ashamed at my lack of these gifts and jealous of her that she had them. So I told those demons of insecurity who spoke to me to go back to the pit of hell in the name of Jesus. I called my friend and I said, “would it bring you joy to help me?” I think she actually squealed with glee and loudly proclaimed, “yes, so much, it would!”
Reflecting on Mary
Once I was able to get over my own weakness, my friend and I were able to collaborate on a great party. I was way less stressed, and she was in her glory. The food was great and my table was beautiful. I smiled inside knowing this is how the Mystical Body should operate. Where one lacks another can fill up, so long as we get out of the way and allow it.
Mary understood this more than anyone. She pondered in her heart, which made her know the will of God and conform herself to it. She encouraged others to encounter Christ without getting in the way. She is not in competition with her Son, she brings us closer to Him. This is why she is our Mother, she only leads us closer to him so our own gifts could be brought out by the glory of God.