Along with October, the month of May is commemorated in the Church in honor of Mary. She is Joseph’s wife and Jesus’s mom. She is Elizabeth’s cousin, Joachim and Anne’s daughter, John the Apostle’s dear friend.
She knows the worries of a mother whose child was lost for a time; the daily work of caring for a home and family; the friendship of neighbors; the sorrow of one whose spouse had died. She knows the supreme sadness of seeing her Son also die, and the possibilities of grace beyond what any of us can know in this life – for she is full of grace, the very life of God not only spiritually but made flesh in her womb. She knows you, and she loves you.
We think of the many needs of our world – the losses so many have suffered through COVID; the struggle for justice for people of every race and status; the casual ease with which our sisters and brothers in the human family can be treated with contempt, indifference, and even hatred; the broken friendships over politics, vaccines, masks, and social media; the sufferings of those who are sick; international tensions that carry the specter of persecution and war – this is but a sample of the matters that weigh on so many souls today.
In the face of these critical issues, invoking Mary’s help might seem trivial or overly pious when so many needs press for concrete response. But that is only if we have an overly abstract view of Mary as some symbol or remnant of a past worldview, a mere figure out of history that no longer makes sense in today’s world.
Nothing could be further from the truth. On a very specific Friday afternoon, beneath her Son’s Cross, John tells us that Mary received her commission: “Behold, your mother.” Just as Mary had accepted Gabriel’s invitation to be the Mother of Jesus, trusting in God’s Word, so she accepted this role with the same humble trust. And as she interceded for an embarrassed couple at their wedding one day in Cana, so she still prays for each of us in our needs, great and small, individual and communal.
Mary takes this role seriously, and so may we. Full of grace, she teaches us to look beyond what divides us – whether it be age, race, political preferences, ability or limitations, health or illness, our flawed past or our uncertain future – and remember that we are all members of one body in her Son. She models humility, patience, a prayerful spirit that does not shout or inflame but listens and calms. Saint Luke tells us of Mary’s own prayer life: “Mary kept all these things and reflected on them in her heart;” and when we pray the Rosary, meditate on the Scriptures, or simply invoke Mary’s name, we join her in this reflection, seeking a deeper understanding of God’s saving work and our own role in it.
As we honor Mary this May, please join me in asking Mary’s intercession, that whatever peace she knew in her heart – even beneath the Cross of her Son – may visit our hearts as well. Try a family Rosary, or gather with neighbors to pray for her intercession. Place a statue or image of Mary in your home or your yard as a reminder of her place in your own pilgrimage of faith.
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.