There are a lot of folks out there that are calling 2016 the worst year ever. They just can’t wait for this year to be done. Even the O-R, in today’s headline, declared it to have been a tough year. And, in some respects, that’s very true. This was a tough year. We lost some notables from stage and screen this year: from Carrie Fisher to Alan Rickman, from Prince to David Bowie. I read a statistic on the internet, so this might not be true, that we as a nation lost almost 100 firefighters in the line of duty this year, and close to 140 police officers. The election was all kinds of difficult – regardless of whom you voted for, it was the meanest, angriest, nastiest election I’ve ever witnessed. Racial tensions in this country are probably the highest they’ve been since the civil rights movement. We still have a terrible heroin problem in Washington County, despite a lot of hard work on that front. There’s a genocide happening in Syria that world leaders have been criminally slow to deal with. 70% of people who identify as Catholics didn’t go to Mass on Christmas. And the Cubs won the World Series.
Yeah, you can say this was a tough year.
But it was not a bad one. And certainly not the worst year ever.
I can say that with confidence, because 2016 began the same way that 2017 will, with us celebrating this beautiful feast dedicated to Mary, Mother of God. What a profound theological statement we make in calling her that! It is, of course, primarily a statement about Jesus – that Jesus has 2 natures, human and divine, and is both fully human and fully divine, and therefore logic dictates that Mary, as his biological mother must also be the Mother of God. That’s a really bare-bones account of the theology, but it’ll do. Because I’m not super interested in doing heavy theology right now. But I do want to think a little bit about the person of Mary. Specifically, about her motherhood.
I mean, what kind of qualifications do you have to have to be the Mother of God? Sure, she was conceived without original sin, and she was full of grace, and all that – but at the end of the day, she’s Jesus’ mother. She has to do for Jesus all of those things that a Mom has to do for her child, except her child happens to be the Word made flesh and the splendor of the Father; the Messiah and the Christ. Well, I imagine she probably didn’t have to discipline Jesus too much, but you get the idea. And we know really nothing about what that was like; we refer to the “hidden years” of Jesus when we talk about him growing up. We simply don’t know.
But we do know that she was successful, wasn’t she? She was faithful. God clearly knew what He was doing – no surprises there, right? And he wasn’t done. As Jesus was dying on the cross, he turns to the beloved disciple and says, “Behold your Mother.” Well, we’re also his beloved disciples, so she has become our Mother, too. From that moment on, we have had this immaculate, sinless, faith-filled, faithful woman praying and interceding for us…and you’re going to tell me it was the worst year ever? With her on your side, do you ever think it would be that bad? With a God who loves you so much that not only does he send his son to suffer and die for you as expiation for your sins, but he also gives you his son’s mother as an intercessor, protector, and guide…how are you ever going to have a bad year?
When she appeared in England, where she is honored as Our Lady of Walsingham, she said, “Whoever seeks my help will not go away empty-handed.” At Guadalupe, she reminded St. Juan Diego, “No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre? Am I not here, I who am your mother?” Mary wants to protect us. Mary wants to mother us. She asks for very little in return. At Lourdes, she asked St. Bernadette to pray the Rosary with her. At Fatima, she asked the children to pray (especially the Rosary), and to make sacrifices for sinners. I mean, how hard is to pray a Rosary every day? All things considered, she really does ask for very little.
Perhaps the problem is that we give her very little. We don’t turn to our Blessed Mother enough to ask for her guidance, her protection, her prayers. We think we’re too busy to pray the Rosary (because, y’know, it might take a whole fifteen minutes). Or maybe we just think we’ve got all this figured out ourselves – but then, we are we crying about what a tough year it’s been? Not giving Mary her due is, I think, symptomatic of a much larger issue: not giving God His due. Do we pray? Do we avail ourselves of the Sacraments? Is God truly a priority – the top priority – in our lives, or do we relegate Him to second, or third, or a lower place? Again, we wonder why it’s felt like a tough year. It’s not really so surprising, is it?
Make 2017 a good year. Listen to your Mother. Pray. Pray often. And ask her for her help.