Today marks the beginning of a new year and a new decade—a time of new beginnings, resolutions, goals, and hope. The craziness of the season has died down a bit, the children are enjoying their new toys and the much-needed break from their studies, and we are slowly recovering from all the love poured out in preparation for Christmas. As if to start our year in the right frame of mind, the Church has us stop to celebrate the woman who bore the Son of God in her womb—the woman who is Mother to Jesus and to us all.
What does it mean to us that Jesus was born of a woman? What does it mean to us, in this vocation, that she is our mother? When we feel our babies in our wombs, we know that Mary felt the kicks and hiccups of Jesus. When we labor and bleed, and give our bodies for our children in labor, we know that Mary sacrificed her body for Jesus. And when we weep and worry and pray for our children, we know Mary carried all of those burdens for her son, even as she watched him die. And now she sits at his right side, and she prays for us! We are never alone in this vocation; we are never without our Mother, cheering us on, carrying our burdens to her son, praying for us to press on and not to lose hope, but to fight the good fight.
For some of us, Mary does not feel close. Or perhaps she feels too perfect, too unrelatable. She was conceived without sin after all, and her son was Jesus, not exactly a tantruming menace, we imagine. I always think of the story of Jesus in the Temple. Mary cannot find her son for three days, and Scripture tells us that she and Joseph were sick with worry. Once he is found, his response to his precious, sick-with-worry mother is “Why did you seek me, did you not know I had to be about my Father’s business?” (Lk 2:49). I am always struck by the “Why did you seek me” part of this response, and I imagine this is the twelve-year-old human part of Jesus coming through the divine part of him. Mary’s job was not an easy one, and at the end of the day, she was a human mother to a divine child. Her Fiat is what gave her the strength and ability to endure, to trust, to keep walking in faith through all the phases of Jesus’ life, trusting that God’s will would be good for both of them.
On his cross, suffering unspeakable pain and anguish, Jesus stopped to give his mother to his disciples, and to all of us. Her motherhood is a gift to us all, and when we feel alone, or misunderstood, or unappreciated, she truly stands with us. This gesture on the part of the Son of God is a true elevation of the sacred vocation of motherhood, and we get to share this beautiful vocation with the one we honor today and always, Mary, Mother of God.