For today’s moms, there is still no room at the hostel
Advent has a special meaning for me because it reminds me of the power of a mother’s love. Although I know that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” I cannot help but focus my attention on the woman who brought him into the world – and what she had to endure to bring him into the world. I also think of the pain she must have felt as she cradled her son’s broken body when they took him from the cross. I reflect on how God must have thought that Mary was special in order to choose her to bear his son. Given the epidemic of maternal mortality and morbidity in our own country, Advent this year seems like an appropriate time to reflect on Mother Mary’s role in history and how we can extend our reverence and our love for her to the women of our society today.
Although the Gospel of Luke is the only place in scripture that mentions the manger of Jesus, its imagery is an essential part of Christmas decoration. As a 3 or 4 year old child, what struck me the most in the history of the Nativity is that Mary had a baby in a stable. Earlier that summer, I had visited a petting zoo on a trip to kindergarten and, while pleasant, it was definitely not a place for a new baby. I did not understand why no one welcomed a woman who clearly needed help; I thought the people at the hostel were bad because they didn’t give up a room. I thought about my mother and how sad it would make me if she had been treated like Mary.
For me, Mary became an example of God’s promise of love – that God would lift up people whom society deemed unimportant and become powerful voices for liberation. In fact, in Luke 1: 46-55 we hear Mary – the seemingly shy teenager who said yes to God’s plan – raising her voice as she visits Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. In the Magnificat, or song of praise, Mary claims her place in history and reminds us of God’s plan to dethrone the powerful and uplift the humble:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he looked with favor on the humility of his servant.
Assuredly, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He showed strength with his arm;
he scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the mighty from their thrones,
and uplifted the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his descendants forever.
Growing up with my mom and my brother made me realize how much motherhood demands of a woman – and how beautiful it can be when there is love. I had a front row seat to watch a parent juggle two children and adult responsibilities, doing their best anyway. I knew my mom was working hard to take care of us, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without her love, support, and strength. As I got older, my respect for my mother only increased, especially as the weight and expenses of adulthood crept in. children all alone? Of course, she also had a support system made up of family members and close friends. This support meant that my mom could go to the petting zoo with me and take me to museums on the weekends and make sure I had a nutritious diet. It taught me that mothers thrive when they have the things they need – and we need to insist on policies that support them.
As a Catholic, the Mother of God has been an important part of my journey to understand my status as a Christian disciple. As I grew up, I came to believe that Mary was the way to Jesus; as the mother of God, she affirms our fundamental belief in Jesus Christ. Mary had a unique perspective on Jesus and his life, a perspective that helps us better understand and draw closer to Jesus. I also learned the depth of Mary’s love for Jesus: her first instinct as a mother was to swaddle her baby and the imagery of the pietà la watch tenderly cradling her son’s body after his death. It takes immense strength to sit next to a loved one and watch them go by, something too many of us have experienced throughout the pandemic.
But for all the love and respect that we Christians claim to have for Mary, the systems that support women like her are dangerously insufficient. Can we really claim to love the Brides in our lives if we also don’t seek to improve our maternal health crisis?
In Washington, DC, the seat of our political power, the women of this country are dying and becoming disabled from pregnancy, labor and childbirth at a worse rate than in Syria, a nation embroiled in a civil war in Classes. In the United States, women tend to be the primary caregivers for their families and therefore are at greater risk for short and long term health impacts.
Despite these injustices, members of Congress are actively debating whether and whether to give women time to care for themselves and their families through the country’s first paid family and medical leave program. help mothers lift their families out of poverty through continued expansion of the child tax credit. . If Congress is serious about honoring the sanctity and dignity of life at all stages, why aren’t more members deeply invested in passing the Build Back Better Act, which would provide much needed help to all Marys? that they claim to represent?
If we are serious about celebrating motherhood in this country – and not just the concept of childbirth – we would ensure access to comprehensive care at community health centers that include childbirth. Parents and children would receive care and support throughout the first years of life by well-funded and trained perinatal and child health workers. Mothers would feel safe knowing that their community has adequate resources to support healthy child development; they would know that their children could flourish.
Shouldn’t we want to create the kind of society that would have supported, protected and honored Mary if she lived today, a society where childbirth and motherhood are safe? If we claim to revere Mary – and all the Brides in our lives – the next obvious step is to adopt the Build Back Better Act as a demonstration of our devotion and gratitude for a mother’s love.