I've been very disappointed in my body lately. I'm finishing a round of antibiotics for a sinus infection. We've also had ear infections, stomach flu, colds, allergies, and asthma in our house. That's not to mention two trips to the Emergency Room within a month. I am constantly filled with anxiety as I wait for the other shoe to drop. Somewhere between the second trip to the emergency room and a sinus infection, I became angry and frustrated with my body, and its subpar ability to fight off disease.
When illness comes along, we are instructed to isolate ourselves and prevent the spread of contagion. But there's no isolation when you have little kids, especially when they get sick. At the first sign of illness, I imagine the plague has let loose, and I feel the entire week will inevitably unravel before me. While I was in the emergency room being treated for dehydration a few weeks ago, our four-year-old threw up at home. My husband took care of him and then laid with him on the couch. "What else could I do? He was upset and couldn't sleep."
The image of Jason holding a child filled with contagion (knowing he may well be sick the next day himself as a result) is my image of Mary, Mother of the Church, whose feast we celebrate today. Like a true Mother, Mary holds the Church (and each of us personally) in all our ordinary challenges, imperfections, and squabbles. Rather than running from our failings, Mary embraces each of us with the tenderness of a parent comforting a sick child.
In the midst of all these illnesses, my instinct isn't to blame my daughter for licking the dog's face, or my nephew for drinking out of everyone else's water bottles. The false spirit tells me I am to blame, for not protecting, for not preventing, for my weakened immune system that gets me too sick to just power through the next illness. In the past few months, I've realized I am nearly powerless to prevent us getting sick. Instead of dwelling on the powerlessness, I am invited to focus on the surrendering to God's care.
Likewise, when I feel frustrated with "the Church" for its shortcomings and imperfections, it is helpful to imagine Mary instead holding the Church with the same loving care. Mary sees our human weakness, and instead of running, she holds us even tighter.
On this Monday, what brings me the most anxiety? What part of myself am I most frustrated with? Rather than hiding in isolation, can I imagine Mary embracing all of me with reckless abandon?