Bicycles are a popular means of transportation, with a long history. My grandfather’s bicycle, the only vehicle he ever owned, got him to and from work at the Quaker Oats factory 364 days a year.
But a shiny bicycle, as time goes by, will collect scratches, rust and dents. The gears and brakes will need oil. The seat will need to be patched. With care and attention, that bicycle will serve many years before it wears out or is scrapped for something new.
Human beings, too, will collect hurts and bruises, from the world they live in, from other people, even from themselves. They will tear and break. Along the way, they could become bitter or violent, and weary or lightless.
Humans need care and attention, but with a different end. Not so they’ll “last longer,” but so they will come to the new dawn, in the garden of the Resurrection, with tears of joy in their eyes and a light of love unto eternity.
So, who will care for us? How will they do it? This isn’t a new question, and indeed rings out through human history.
That’s us too in the present time: suffering and in need of tending. But our human need — of physical care, soul-care, person-care — is often less apparent to us than the nicks and fatigue of inanimate objects like computers and bicycles.
Our world is suffering, too, as we experience crises of polarization, mutual distrust, misunderstanding and hostility. One of the reasons is surely this: Our tendency to live as though there is no providence, no divine care for us. Who can bear such emptiness and isolation?
The growing acceptance of euthanasia stems not so much from our fear of physical suffering, but from our fear of being an unwanted burden. Being uncared-for is such a deep anguish for humans that it can rob us of our sanity. Or we can build ourselves a little inner bunker where that anguish remains bricked in while we act out.
Living as if there’s no divine care for us is living a lie. Not necessarily a deliberate lie or even a knowing lie, but an untruth that does immense harm. That’s why the Church has so many ways of remembering. Remembering is not an intellectual pastime, but an activity of the whole person and the whole community.
Eucharist is the ultimate remembering (“anamnesis”), the making present of God’s care for us. Little regular rememberings also bring balm to the human heart, like the “fioretti” of St. Francis, who collected these “small flowers,” or ways the community enjoyed divine care.
Nobody is forgotten by God, even when we forget. His mother, the Gospels tell us, knew how to remember deeply, to “ponder in her heart” all that happened.
Much that happened to her was joy. “Rejoice” is the first word spoken to her by Gabriel.
Much was anguish, the sword she knew would pierce her heart. She remembered both within her.
Mary’s godliness is simply that she carries God.
This is what goodness is. She is God-bearer, as the title Mother of God says, claimed for her by the Church since the fourth century. But there is no carrying God without bearing also God’s love of humanity.
We see Jesus confer this duty upon Mary moments before His death, when He gives her as mother to His beloved disciple. At the foot of the cross, she opens herself to care for those He cares for, which is all of us, just as she cared for Him.
“Cared for” is really the secret name of humanity, from Adam and Eve on down to each of us. It’s the name we deeply want, even though it’s hard for us to accept that it’s what our hearts long for.
In 2021, the Church seems to be shrinking, and our common humanity seems at risk of disappearing entirely. It’s time to reclaim the high adventure that Christian life really is. Let’s remember that life, long for it and row hard for it. Let’s remember the truth of what God is doing among us.
Marrocco is a columnist for Catholic News Service.