Jesus was an only child. His mother Mary, as far as we know, was probably an only child as well. I share my mom with 6 siblings, plus 2 others I have never met. But for the sake of this exercise, I am not including them since they already occupy a special place in mom’s heart, and no one will ever take that from them. So that leaves 6 siblings and me … 6 siblings to compare with whether we like it or not, 6 siblings to help carry on mom’s legacy into posterity. You’re probably thinking I’m jealous of my siblings for mom’s attention and affection. Despite what it might sound like, it is not as dark or touchy a subject. My siblings and I talk regularly, sometimes in person, sometimes over social media. We didn’t always. And I don’t think we do it for mom necessarily either. We do genuinely like each other, despite the differences in politics and other opinions, and we enjoy spending time together. Of course we can give mom credit for getting us started. And although some of my siblings like to say they are mom’s favorite—my sister for being the only girl, my oldest brother for being the first, my youngest brother for being the baby, and everyone else for reasons only they probably find convincing—I can say I have never made any such claims. If anything, I have made claims to the contrary. In fact, at one point along the way, I seriously thought I was the black sheep for so often catching negative attention, but in hindsight, mostly for getting caught.
Every mom (and every dad for that matter) will say out loud that they love all their children equally, which in my humble opinion is a heaping pile of malarkey. No one can love everyone equally. You can make every effort to be fair to everyone equally, or be kind and compassionate and forgiving, but being human beings, we tend to have preferences when dealing with a number of choices. And those preferences may change over time, because our opinions evolve, and our relationships evolve, and over time we respond to one another differently depending on other factors like mental health, the weather, and who we voted for in the last election. So at some point, each of my siblings may have been mom’s favorite, as have I (although I make no such claim). If you ask mom now which one of her children is her favorite, she may give an answer that is the “honest to God” truth for that specific moment in time, or she can serve you a heaping pile of malarkey and say she loves all her children equally. But you know better.
Now most of us have just one mom. It makes no difference whether you consider your birth mom or your adoptive mom or your next-door neighbor who bakes the best cookies your mom. The distinctions just have to be clear in your head. And having just one mom, we can direct all our mom-appropriate affections to that one person. However the reverse is not always true. Most moms will claim various children of different kinds. They may be biological or adopted or extended familial or figurative or expedient or even imaginary. And conveniently, each of them gets to be a favorite at some point. But once a mother stakes her claim that you belong to her, there’s no backsies. I’ve tried.
At the beginning of this new year, we celebrate Mary and her role in God’s plan of salvation. Just a few days ago, we recall that she brought forth a child whom she named Jesus, as the angel instructed her. In the realm of biology, Mary had but one child. For that specific reason, one person alone gets to call her mom. But at the foot of his cross, Jesus did entrust his mother to John, and through John to you and me who are members of his body, the church. And when someone you love most dearly gives you his mother to call your own while he’s hanging on a cross, you don’t argue semantics. And since most moms will have many different children of various kinds, the Mother of Jesus being no exception, we are her children in whatever way, shape, or form we prefer—whether adopted, extended familial, figurative, expedient, or imaginary. You can even claim to be her favorite, malarkey or not.
In 1967, the bishop of Rome, Blessed Paul VI, designated the 1st day of January as the World Day of Peace. It is a day of new beginnings, New Year’s resolutions, wishful thinking, and impossible dreams. But the hope is that we don’t simply wish for peace, the end of hostilities between nations, a more productive outlook in life, or significant weight loss. The hope is that we put significant effort and resources to making those wishes, resolutions, and dreams a reality. Other people can send us prayers and good thoughts, but some things will not become reality without real effort and resources on our part. So if we don’t really intend to melt those love handles, no one can make us. No amount of prayers, encouragement, or exercise equipment will do any good if we’re not on board with the program ourselves.
Now even more significantly, the work of peace will require significant effort and resources from all of us. We all have a role to play in this endeavor. It may seem like an impossible dream indeed considering all that has been happening in the world this past year. Nations are still at war. Historic animosities persist. Hatred and hostility endure among people of different religions, politics, and loyalties. But we think nothing of turning to God for mercy and compassion, crying out for protection from danger and death, pleading for our own safe return and that of our loved ones. But what are we willing to contribute of our efforts or resources to make any of this come about? Are we willing to extend significant support? Or whatever is necessary? Or whatever we can afford? Or whatever we have no need for? Or whatever is left over from our other endeavors? Or some token portion which no one will really miss? Or nothing significant? Or nothing at all?
Today we call on Mary who is mother of Jesus and mother of us all. Her many children call on her pleading with tears and cries of desperation, bringing to her their many burdens, their struggles, and those of their own children. And being mother, she calls back to us, pleading with those of her children who can put forth the effort and resources to assist their own sisters and brothers. I imagine when my own siblings are in need and my mom brings it to my attention, I will not have the heart to turn away. She might remind me that I am her favorite, malarkey or not. I can’t blame her. Being mother to anyone is not an easy job. I don’t know it from experience, but I have seen the toll it takes on some people. It requires the dedication and willingness to nurture and sustain the connections between people, especially her children, those who are sisters and brothers to each other. A mother’s ties to her children are not primarily for her own benefit. That’s why she truly has no favorites. Or they all are. Malarkey or not.
Rolo B Castillo © 2017