Q: If parents should not have favorites among their children, why did God favor Mary among other women to be the mother of Jesus?

A: We are taught that parents should be fair to their children.

hat we read in the Gospel (Luke) is the angel Gabriel telling Mary that she has been favored by God, and also Mary’s kinswoman Elizabeth saying the same thing. What does this mean? This means Mary has been completely faithful to the Lord and has remained good and pure in God’s eyes. Moreover, the biggest reason why Mary is “full of grace” is that she accepts the role of being the mother of Jesus, that is, to be the mother of God.

After Mary says “yes” to the invitation by God through the angel Gabriel to be Jesus’ mom, Mary receives the Holy Spirit and is pregnant with Jesus.

Obviously, Mary has a special place in the human race, a higher place, for she is the mother of God and as a result also is the first Christian.

We should model ourselves after her holiness, humility and love for God. We should model ourselves after the Immaculate Heart of Mary. That is why we pray the Hail Mary, knowing that Mary is full of grace and she has the ability to intercede for us all the while pointing toward her son Jesus, the savior of the world.

Let us also not forget that Mary, our mother in faith, was without original sin, as we brother and sister Catholics hold to the truth of the Immaculate Conception and that Mary was taken body and soul to heaven at the assumption.

Q: What year was Christ born, because we hear different years?

A: You and I live in an era where we expect precision, no matter what the subject. When there is no precision, we become anxious and confused wondering just what to think. However, remember that calendars have been altered in different ways in the past 2,013 years to a point that it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact year of Jesus’ birth. While some theologians say that Jesus’ birth could have been as early as 6 B.C., others indicate the year A.D. 4.

What is most important here is that Jesus’ birth, that very first Christmas, is a historic fact. Jesus was born to Mary and to his foster dad, Joseph, in a manger in Bethlehem. As for the exact year, we have difficulty pinpointing the exact year of many contemporaries of Jesus, born around his birth, because of either the changing calendars or even an imprecise record. Remember, most people in the Holy Land, when Jesus was born, were unable to read and so had to share the word verbally before finally someone had the opportunity to write down the facts.

Q: How does one figure out God’s plan for his or her life?

A: This is a particularly important question for our recent graduates. How many of us following graduation, whether high school or even college, sense a great uncertainty in our lives? This is a reminder that you and I are not sovereign or, in other words, we do not have complete control over our lives; we must, in the end, depend on God.

One thing we should always remember is to “keep the communication lines open” with God. This occurs in numerous ways: by attending Mass at least every Sunday (or Saturday evening), or even daily, taking time out for daily prayer, having a good heart-to-heart with our parents (Yes, parents are outstanding resources for our future!) and, of course, knowing our own abilities.

While we all want to envision our future, we must realize that discernment and uncertainty are part of the process. It has been said that discernment is the choosing between two goods. Many of you who graduated from high school realize that there are many options in your life which, of course, do not make it any easier for you to plan your future. Just remember that God has a plan for you and wishes for you to listen to him in order to see where he wishes you to go.

When I graduated from high school, I was uncertain whether or not the Lord was asking me to become a husband and dad or a priest. Did Our Lord Jesus surprise me in making me a bishop three decades later! This was most certainly not on my personal “radar screen,” but I am so grateful to God to be your bishop in the Diocese of Steubenville.

For all of you graduates or you discerning where the Lord is taking you at this time, or those of you trying to determine where your life is taking you, trust that I will say a special prayer for you and ask that you keep me in yours, as I try to be the best shepherd possible for you.

May God bless all of you and your families this coming summer, and together let us pray for religious liberty as we as a Catholic family in the United States of America celebrate the Fortnight for Freedom June 21 through July 4. I personally will be at our cathedral to celebrate a 7 p.m. Mass June 21 and St. Mary Church, Marietta, to celebrate the 5:30 p.m. Mass June 22. I hope you have the opportunity to attend.