31 Dec/1 Jan 2017 Who do we turn to in 2017?
The Octave Day of Christmas
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
We had the chance to go back to central Illinois after Christmas for a visit. My parents and Mother-in-law live in the same county about 4 hours south of here.
My older brother and his family were home for Christmas so we had a nice time visiting with our parents. We are all in good health and thankful for many blessings. It was great to see everyone.
Spending time with relatives was enjoyable for many reasons but served as a reminder of our common heritage and family bonds. Family relationships give us strength to face future challenges and provide comfort in knowing we can turn to them for support.
If that support is not available from our earthly family, our readings this weekend remind us that we always have a divine family we can turn to. In St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians we learn that we are adopted children of God the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus. This makes Jesus an “older brother” and the Blessed Virgin Mary our Holy Mother in Heaven.
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York said, “God calls us to be His children, saved by our oldest brother, Jesus, in a supernatural family called the Church.”
Pope Francis describes it this way: "We have a mother, we have our older brother Jesus, we are not alone…"
The support of this divine family will be important as we look ahead to 2017. We may have reason to be optimistic about 2017 but it will likely be filled with many challenges.
- Who should we turn to when we find ourselves overwhelmed with one of these challenges?
- Whose experience may we use to help us through a difficult time?
As it turns out we have many choices. There are several inspirational people in our lives today. Their advice or an internet search can provide dozens of solutions for most any problem you can think of. The challenge is finding a credible source we can turn to who won’t lead us astray.
I would suggest we turn to our Blessed Mother when times get tough. This is very appropriate because today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On this day, we are reminded of the role that the Blessed Virgin played in the plan of our salvation. Through the Holy Spirit, God the Father prepared Mary to be the dwelling place where His Son and His Spirit could dwell among men.
If we look closely at the life of Mary, there are many lessons and examples we can turn to when we need inspiration:
- The Annunciation is an incredible example of faith and surrender. History tells us that Mary was a young teenage girl from a poor family when the angel Gabriel visited her. After Gabriel told her she would give birth to the Son of God, Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” I don’t believe she could have known what all that meant but her trust in God’s plan allowed her to take that tremendous leap of faith. Let us ask God to give us the faith we need to always trust in His plan for us.
- The Visitation is an amazing example of love and service. The Gospel of Luke tells us Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah. It was almost 100 miles from Nazareth to the little town where Zachary and Elizabeth lived. Joseph likely arranged the trip in a caravan so her pregnant wife could travel safely. Mary stayed for 3 month to help her pregnant cousin Elizabeth. Let us ask God to give us the strength and patience we need to help those around us.
- The Wedding at Cana was the first documented miracle of Jesus. At the wedding feast, Mary realizes the wine has run out and informs Jesus. This Gospel story reveals to us how Mary prays and intercedes with her Son for those in need. Mary’s last recorded words come from this Bible story in the Gospel of John and are just as important today: “Do whatever He tells you.”
These are just some of the examples from Mary’s life we can use as we face the challenges of 2017. Praying the rosary is a great way to reflect on these and other inspiring examples from the life of Mary and Jesus.
As we prepare to face the challenges of 2017 let us ask for the help of our Blessed Mother in a prayer called The Memorare. It was written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century. It’s on the back of your song book at the top on the left. Please pray it with me:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of Virgins, our Mother. To you I come; before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate! Despise not our petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.