Imagine three people: person A, person B, and person C. Imagine that person A tells person B to do whatever person C tells them. In an absolute sense, no one can ever say such a thing – at least not without taking huge risks. I say this because as human beings we are all of us sinners: we do wrong things, but perhaps more importantly we fail to do right things, and often we just do not really know what is the best course of action. We suffer from not knowing the full situation, misreading another’s feelings, inherited and deep-set prejudices, etc, etc. In other words, we can never fully submit our will and our conduct to another human being. Person A should never ask person B to “do whatever he/she (person C) tells you”. Never.
Yet there is perhaps one area in human life where this instruction must apply: to an army in wartime. A soldier submits to do whatever his/her commanding officer orders him/her to do, even to the point of killing. Without this complete obedience an army, especially in wartime, just wouldn’t function, and the consequences for it’s survival would be grim. But this total obedience comes at a great cost: the soldier may be involved in brutalities and atrocities. Effectively, a soldier signs his/her conscience away. This is one of the many evils of warfare, and the psychological effects of that for the individual soldier can be crippling, as in Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD).
OK, so in normal life, no one can order or should obey such a command. And yet in the Gospel, Mary, the mother of Jesus, says precisely this! At the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2: 1 – 12), when the wine for the feast runs out, potentially causing the newly weds a huge social embarrassment, Mary, who is ever attentive to the needs of others, turns to Jesus and asks him to do something to help. He at first seems to rebuff her request, but the Gospel story makes it clear that he is nonetheless content to be subject to her parental authority. She then without hesitation tells the catering staff: “Do whatever he tells you”. As we know Jesus performs his first recorded miracle and the blushes of the newly weds are saved – indeed the wine Jesus transforms from water is superb! Divine even!
Great story, and impressive demonstration of what Christians believe to be Jesus’ divinity as the Son of God. But the point I want to take from this story is quite simply that Mary is perfectly right to tell the servants to “do whatever he tells you”. OK, she is saying this in the context of a local social emergency – but all Gospel texts have a much bigger relevance, and Mary and Jesus’ words are meant for all humanity, and for always. So we can take it from St John that Mary is also speaking directly to us: she is point blank telling us: “Do whatever he tells you”! This instruction is a succinct description of true discipleship.
But my real point is this: Mary can only say what she says to us – because she knows who Jesus is – the sinless Son of God. Jesus, as the incarnate God, is the only person we can ever give our full heart, soul and mind to. We can always, and with perfect trust, obey His will – though let’s be honest, knowing the will of God is not to be taken for granted.
And so when Mary says her few brief words to us, let me capitalise the H in ‘he’:
“Do whatever He tells you”.
In His will is our peace,