No doubt you've heard or seen the initials, WWJD, representing the question, "What Would Jesus Do?" The phrase is so common now it's become somewhat of a cliché. It appears on clothing, jewelry and trinkets. Some aberrations have developed. I've heard that for irreverent high school students the initials mean, "We want Jack Daniels." The phrase has been used as an advertising slogan to pitch a particular beverage, "What would Jesus drink?" and as an environmental challenge to drivers of oversized, gas-guzzling SUVs, "What would Jesus drive?"
Actually, the question, "What would Jesus do?" is a good one because it invites us to bring the vision and values of Jesus into every situation we encounter. It challenges us to conform our thoughts, words and deeds to the heart and mind of Christ. St. Paul didn't ask, "What would Jesus do?" but he did write, "Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus." (Col 3:17)
Along the same lines, there is another good question we might ask: WWMD - "What Would Mary Do?" After all, if our Blessed Mother is the first and best disciple, a model of the Christian Faith, it's appropriate to look at her example and ask what she would do in dealing with the events of daily life.
From one perspective, I guess it's difficult to ask what Mary would do about some contemporary questions - War in Iraq, stem cell research, homosexual unions, the funding of public education and unemployment, for example. These questions weren't on the radar screen in Mary's time, and according to the Bible she didn't make a lot of public policy statements.
Nonetheless, by looking at the role of Mary in the Bible, and by turning to Mary in prayer and reflection, we can get some pretty clear answers to the question, "What would Mary do?"
First, Mary would teach us to have faith and to trust God, in every situation we encounter in life, especially the most difficult.
In choosing Mary to be the Mother of God, the Lord asked a great deal of her. His plan for the salvation of the world turned her life upside-down and required of her great sacrifice and enormous suffering. Mary was asked to embrace a future that was hidden from her sight. And yet her faith and trust enabled her to respond with courage, "I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." (Lk 1:38) As her Cousin Elizabeth proclaimed, "Blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled." (Lk 1:45)
Second, Mary would insist that we have respect for life and love for one another.
Surely Mary, who carried the Lord of Life and Savior of the World in her womb for nine months, understood how precious every single life is, from the very moment of conception. And Mary gave us a clear example of caring for others. Mary hastened to Elizabeth's side to assist during her time of need. Mary was concerned about the happiness of the newlyweds at the Wedding Feast in Cana. And Mary knew exactly what it was like to be a single mom, a homeless woman, a seeker of shelter, a political refugee, and the mother of an imprisoned and executed son. Don't you think that Mary would encourage us to care for our brothers and sisters who experience some of the same hardships in their lives today?
Third, Mary would lead us to her Son Jesus. She would tell us to learn from Him, listen to Him and love Him.
Recall that at the Wedding Feast in Cana, Mary, referring to Jesus said, "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn 2:5), words that summarize the Christian moral life. In his Letter on the Rosary, Pope John Paul II wrote: "It is not just a question of learning what Jesus taught, but of learning Him. In this regard could we have any better teacher than Mary? Among creatures, no one knows Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of His mystery better than His Mother." (#14) In short, true devotion to Mary never distracts us from Christ, but leads us closer to Him. And Mary wouldn't have it any other way!
The month of May, a time traditionally devoted to our Blessed Mother, provides us with a perfect opportunity to reflect on the unique role of the Virgin Mary in Salvation History and to affirm her special place in our lives. And as we try to learn from her example of faith, hope and love, it just might be helpful to consider the question, WWMD - What would Mary do?
(This article was previously published in "The Catholic Exponent and The Providence Visitor.")