January 1, 2017—Solemnity of Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
Reading 1: Nm 6:22-27
Responsorial: Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Reading 2: Gal 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke 2:16-21
Everyone is finally napping–including Dad–so, I finally have time to write to you. It’s been a crazy week, celebrating Christmas and the new year, introducing the twins to our friends and family, and then just having normal life in between. So, I’m sorry that I’m so late to write to you. Dad is always so good about getting his letters to you before Sunday, but I can’t do those late nights of writing anymore. I think my brain stopped being able to do that after all those grad school all-nighters.
Anyway, here I am! Today is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God–which is super cool. It’s only right that at some point during Christmastime, we celebrate Jesus’s mama, right? After all, you know your birth stories by now…and you know Jesus’s birth story. Yours were MUCH calmer than his. So, she should get some credit for the crazy pregnancy and being mama to Jesus. It wasn’t all daisies and butterflies like some people portray it to be. Parenthood is great and all—my favorite of God’s blessings to me—but, it definitely has its struggles.
And that’s what today’s readings really highlight. They don’t talk about how wonderful Mary is, or even how holy she is. There are plenty of places in scripture that talk about her wonderful qualities and the Church could have chosen those for today’s readings. But, they didn’t. Instead, the readings focus on parenthood and how God wants to reveal his parenthood to us.
St. Paul talks about that specifically in Galatians, saying that “God sent his Son…so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Jesus comes so that we get to be children of God and experience God as a parent. God wants us to reach out to him in the same way that you guys reach up to me and your dad when you want to be held. He wants us to call out to him, just like you cry out to us in the middle of the night when you’re hungry or scared. So, Jesus is sent to live out life on Earth to show us what it’s like to have God as a father. And, God gets to reveal to us what it’s like to have him as a parent. Pretty cool way to show us his love, I think. He could have just written it down: “I love you like a dad loves his kids.” Or, he could have just told a story–like the parable of the Prodigal Son. But, he wanted to be SO clear about his love for us. So, God showed us exactly what it’s like to be loved by him, by showing us through Jesus’s life.
My favorite part of today’s readings though is in the Gospel. Luke tells us that the shepherds have arrived to see Jesus, and while they’re visiting, they share what the angels said about baby Jesus. They tell Mary and Joseph that this baby is to be the savior, the Messiah, the Lord.
Now, I’d imagine that Mary and Joseph were a little taken aback. That’s not your typical conversation when you visit a newborn. When people visit you guys, Josiah and Elizabeth, they don’t say things like that. They say things like, “Wow–they have a lot of hair!” or “Look at their facial expressions!” or “They’re so tiny!” People drop off food and coffee. They bring presents and diapers. They comment on how cute the babies are and ignore how sleep-deprived the parents look. Your role in salvation history isn’t usually something that comes up in conversation. But, those shepherds just drop that into their visit.
As expected, Mary responds gracefully. (Much better than I would have.) It says that everyone was amazed at what they said, but Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
Can I share with you a little about a mama’s heart? I’m new at this, and I’m sure by the time that you guys read these letters, I’ll have learned so much more about being a mom. But, let me tell you really quick about my brain and heart since I became a mama to the three of you:
I used to remember things people told me. I used to have knowledge in my brain about Chaucer and Walt Whitman, practical financial information, and current events. Now, my brain is full of other things, like how many milliliters of Tylenol Nicholas can take and how many packets of oatmeal we have left for breakfast. I memorize things like how much a gallon of milk is at Trader Joe’s vs. Ralph’s, and how many ounces Josiah and Elizabeth have gained in the past week. Yeah. My mama brain is a little bit different than it used to be.
I also used to care about different things. I didn’t know how motherhood would change my heart. There’s a certain kind of love that rouses a person from a dead sleep at 2AM–just to check if Josiah and Elizabeth are breathing. I didn’t know that it was possible for me to feel so sad on the first night that Nicholas slept in his own room. And, I can’t describe the joy of a sweet, snotty kiss from Nicholas or the peace of having a sleeping baby on my chest.
So, I feel like Mary’s heart has got to be overflowing right now–as graceful and peaceful as the gospel reading might make her seem. She is seeing her own son, who grew inside of her for nine months, for the first time! She is watching Joseph be a dad for the first time. She is probably hurting–because, let’s face it, childbirth isn’t exactly a walk in the park. And, now she’s thinking about the fate of her son as the Messiah and Savior. Man!
That’s one of the reasons why I feel so close to Mary. That’s one of the reasons why I wear the Miraculous Medal around my neck and encourage you guys to ask her for prayers. Mary had every reason to be totally overwhelmed and sink into her humanity. She was dealt a rough deck in life and could have just cut and run. Vegas–or whatever the equivalent was at that time—sounded pretty good to her, I bet.
But, she embraced that same spirit of parenthood that God shows us. She showed love to Jesus and the people who followed him. She listened to God’s word and followed his will for her. And, she embodied the peace and love that he showed to her, even to the point of bearing his son and raising him to be a good man. My hope in life is that she can help teach me to follow God too, so I can be a better mama to you guys and lead you closer to God.
(P.S. If you wanna know more about why we give Mary so much honor, it’s because God gave her that honor first. We can never love her more than Jesus did…so, we’re cool. And, she literally shared DNA with Jesus, so I’m sure she’s got a little more holiness going on than we do. But, come ask me. We’ll chat more another day.)
So today really is all about parenthood. Mary is a great mom to Jesus and to us. And, your dad and I are entrusted with the three of you, to be good parents to you for the rest of your lives. But, the big deal is that God wants to be our parent and let us experience his love in the same ways that mother and father show love to their kids. He wants to be strength for us. He wants to be comforting to us. He wants to help us choose right from wrong. He wants good for us–the best, in fact. And, all we have to do is reach up and ask for him to be our Father.
…which is right where the first reading comes in. I hope that you always feel the love that Dad and I have for you. But, more than that, I hope that you always turn to God when you need something and you’re searching for love. This is my prayer for you always:
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace.
With all my love,