III – Mary pointing
So from prayer to preaching we have seen that Mary offers us an example of what it is to be a disciple of Christ, and now it remains for us to look at Mary as the pointer. Now, as I suspected at the start, some of you may be wondering what ‘the pointer’ means. Well, one need look no further than the Magnificat we were just speaking about. There we find Mary instantly shifting the focus from herself to Almighty God. ‘My soul glorifies THE LORD’, she says.
Again, she rejoices in God ‘for HE has looked on the humble estate of his servant.’ And finally, the great reason behind why we call Mary ‘Blessed’: ‘HE who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is HIS name.’ Mary points, but never to herself; she always points to God.
This is particularly evident in her famous last words. It’s interesting to do a google search on famous last words and see the kind of legacy people leave behind at their deathbed. Some talk about drink; others, their husbands or wives; or some just leave with a joke. Not Mary. Mary’s last words tell us all we need to know about her. Do you know what they are?
‘Do whatever he tells you.’ (John 2:5)
These words, of course, come from John’s Gospel and that famous scene at the wedding at Cana. We know the story: the wedding has run out of wine, Mary informs Jesus, he says some mysterious words about his hour not yet having arrived, and still unflustered, full of faith, Mary turns to the servants and says, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ She does not speak another word in all the Gospels. Instead, she utters these words and falls into silence, appearing again at the Cross, but even there without a word. Instead, she leaves us with nothing other than a command to obediently follow her son, Jesus Christ.
We can often forget this, particularly when we come to the question of Catholic devotion to Mary. Protestants and misinformed Catholics alike look at all the titles we give Mary, for example, and are left scandalised, thinking that we give her too much honour. But, that is to forget that all the titles of Our Lady really speak of her relation to Jesus.
Take any title: Ark of the Covenant, for example. Well, who is the New Covenant? Jesus Christ. Mary becomes the ark by having Christ in her womb. Again, think of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom. Who is the wisdom that comes from God? Jesus Christ.
When we think about it, Mary’s whole life, her very existence is a pointing to our Lord. In fact, that’s the point of meditating on the mysteries whilst praying the rosary. Mary helps us there to think about the life of our Lord.
I think in this we find a really important lesson to learn from our Lady: to live a life for Jesus. It’s a basic point, I know, but an extremely important one. Perhaps we should hope that like our Lady, people will not think of us, speak of us, remember us without also thinking about Jesus Christ. That should be our hope: that our lives may be a great witness to Jesus.
That’s a really scary thought to entertain, however. Why? Because it involves a lot of sacrifice on our part. It means changing our behaviour, our likes and dislikes, our friends, perhaps, or for some people I know, their jobs, their livelihood! And that is very scary. Mary leaves us with a sure way of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, but it’s not an easy way.
That, however, does not mean we should give up or lose heart, for whatever God asks of us, he will give us more than enough help to do it. We can find a hint of this if we go back to the Wedding Feast at Cana. For what happens after Mary gives this command to the servants? They are told to go and fill some jars with water. I can imagine on their part, they would have been thinking, ‘Why on earth would we fill these jars with water.
It’s going to make us look really stupid.’ But notice what happens: they do it anyway in obedience to Jesus and Mary and rather than return looking ridiculous, they witness first hand the first great sign or miracle in John’s Gospel: the water turns into wine. Now, those servants did something very courageous in obeying Jesus and Mary; they did something risky and uncomfortable, but they were not left red in the face. No, Jesus gave them more than they could have ever hoped for and that is precisely the same with us.
This command from Mary to ‘do whatever he tells you’ certainly involves sacrifice on our part, but it is not a sacrifice in vane. The promise that goes with this command is that in following Jesus’ call wherever it leads us, we will be lead to a fulfillment; a flourishing that is beyond what we could have imagined. But get ready for a life that is not all about you; get ready for a life lived in reference to Jesus Christ, a life that constantly points to him.
That, I think, is a good point to finish on, for after all, being a disciple of Jesus Christ is, in the words of St. Paul, to live a new kind of existence (cf. Rom. 6:4): a life for Jesus. What I have tried to do tonight is to show you how Mary is a key example of that.
Through her prayer we learnt to develop for ourselves a silent, contemplative prayer so as to have an intimate union with Jesus. Through her preaching, we learnt that however small the task set before us, we ought to proclaim Jesus boldly in it.
Through her pointing we learnt that to be a disciple of Jesus is to live a life always with reference to him. So I leave you with these three Ps, as it were: Mary the prayer, the preacher, and the pointer. I pray that you will all have the courage to keep trying to live like Mary, praying, preaching, and pointing. If you entrust yourselves to her, she will help you do this; she will never let you down.
Delivered by Seminarian Jack Green to IGNITE Youth at Saint John XXIII Catholic Parish, Stanhope Gardens on 28 May, 2017.
To read Part 2 of Mary: The Model Disciple, click here.
To read the full text of Mary: The Model Disciple, click here.