11 May 2014
“… Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2: 21) In the name …
Today is Mother’s Day and the church’s two readings couldn’t be more appropriate. The Gospel account of Jesus as the Good Shepherd speaks to us about care and devotion and the relationship they build. The Lesson tells us that Jesus’ life was an example for the rest of us to follow. Both of these readings are about Jesus, but they could likewise be about mothers. Like the Good Shepherd, a mother’s care and devotion for her child or children is the foundation of a lifelong relationship. It is relationship, so much more than biology, that defines motherhood. And a mother’s example, like Jesus’, is a child’s school of right and wrong. It is for reasons such as this that the church honours mothers and motherhood this day.
And we should honour mothers at least on this one special day because we expect an awful lot of them. The first official, national celebration of Mother’s Day was in 1914. The First World War was brewing over in Europe. Mother’s would be sending their sons by the millions to fight in this conflict, and ten million of them would never return home again. It was this same year and for this same reason that our church created the Feast of the Christian Family in 1914. When we were surrounded by violence and savagery, we began to think anew about the wisdom of a mother’s teaching, of a mother’s example.
When Mother’s Day was first officially celebrated 100 years ago on this the second Sunday of May, a mother’s world was basically her family. Obviously many of the chores of running a household and of nurturing children were far more time consuming 100 years ago than they are today. It would take every moment of a mother’s day to get through all of them, and most all of them had to do directly with the care of her family. 2014 is not 1914. Today mothers often work outside of the home. Daycare is common. Careers are natural. But mothers still give more time than a lot of us can figure out how to their families, to their children. Maybe they’re not making home-cooked meals three times a day, but on top of working to pay bills and to give their children what they can, mothers still run here and there as a child’s taxi service, help with homework, help to make sure that meals are ready and hardly ever at the same time so this one can go to soccer, that one to band, and this one to catechism. And even when they have willing help from dads and from others, when the kids are being well taken care of, the amazing thing about a mother is, is that even after giving all she can, she can still feel guilty that she can’t do everything. This is why for at least today we need to honour mothers.
But their care-giving is only one part of motherhood. Another essential task that we ask parents to perform, and since today is Mother’s Day, let’s say that we ask mothers to perform, is that they give a good and right example for their children to follow. What an awesome responsibility this is. A person can go to school for 20 or more years, get a Doctorate like only 1% of Americans ever will, and yet the lessons they learn as a child in the home, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad, will never be forgotten. I’m always amazed and often times troubled by the statistic that a troubled home can too often lead to a troubled life. I know I’m wrong, but I would think that a child who sees the destruction that alcohol or drugs can rain-down upon a family, who sees the debris left behind by abusive relationships, would do the exact opposite when they grow up. Instead, too often, the problems of childhood are carried into adulthood. The responsibility of giving a child a good and right example is enormous because that example doesn’t seem to fade away.
This is why we pray for mothers today. We’re finding out that drugs are zipping back and forth on 91, right through our little towns and communities. Drug abuse is high. It’s happening right under our noses at Frontier. EMT’s and emergency room personnel are treating more and more drug overdoses. People we know are going to start dying. Police can only do so much, schools and the government can only do so much. The best protection against this poison is the home. The example that a mother gives is the best defense against so many of the things that would try and hurt our children. And this is why we pray for mothers today.
We read today in First Peter that Jesus is an example for us. We also need to know that mothers translate the perfect example of Jesus into the language of their children. We all know, for example, how hurtful it is when someone is bullied or made fun of. Society may reward the creative and the different, but not the world of children and teenagers. They can be unbelievably mean to someone just a bit different. The church can repeat Jesus’ command: “‘In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.’” (Matt. 7:12), but it is a mother’s reprimand that often gives those words meaning. “I didn’t raise you to act like that” can be more effective than a year’s worth of school assemblies. It’s their example that speaks most loudly so we need to pray that they may be heard.
I remember when I was in catechism way back when. Fr. Swantek, my pastor, had asked the class to read for Stations of the Cross. He didn’t get too good a response. When our mothers came to pick us up, Fr. Swantek asked again about having us read for Stations of the Cross. Everyone of us read. The mothers said we would. The church has long relied on this extra push from mothers. Whether it be protecting a child from all sorts of dangers, whether it be teaching them how to act towards others with a moral conscience, or whether it be a second voice for the church, mothers are absolutely essential. For all these reasons and hundreds more, we thank our mothers on this 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day, and we pray that Jesus bless them for all the good work they do. In His name we pray. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo