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Sermons > Mother's Day

Fifth Sunday after Easter
9 May 2010

“‘Not as the world gives do I give it to you.’”  (John 14:27)

In the name …

Last Sunday Mark Stahelski asked that prayers be offered by the church for Jill Harrington Hanzalik and her newborn son Chase Thomas Hanzalik.  Jill was still enjoying her newlywed year of marriage and was also looking forward to the June birth of her first child.  Complications arose during her pregnancy.  An infection was spreading rapidly through her system.  Tragically, both the baby and the mother succumbed to it and their funerals were held last weekend.  Jill hails from this area, but through her job with the NBA she was known by people all over the world.  One of those far-flung friends was Kevin McCrarey who is a reporter for a sports-talk radio station in South Carolina.  He dedicated one of his segments to Jill.  He spoke of how she loved basketball and her job with the NBA, but that she loved even more the idea of marriage and motherhood.  When she found the husband that was meant for her, she accepted his proposal, they were married just last May, and the two of them moved to Vermont because of his job.  They decided to immediately start a family, and this past September she heard the great news that she was pregnant.  Family meant everything to this young woman, and even though her child was not long in this world, and even though she would not survive her newborn son for more than a little while, Jill Harrington Hanzalik was a mother.  She was a mother from the moment she heard the news that she was pregnant.  Motherhood has nothing to do with how long a woman is a mother.  Motherhood is about a special quality not quantity.  It’s that quality, that essence, that spirit, that defines a mother.  It’s about that special relationship with a child that cannot be fully imitated, but can only be appreciated.  Jill immediately personified this mystery of the quality of motherhood, a change takes place that the rest of can appreciate but never fully understand.

At the other end of the time line, a couple of weeks ago we gathered here in church for the funeral of Peter Backiel.  Peter fought cancer long and hard, but he finally succumbed to the disease.  He died on his mother’s 95th birthday.  I spent some time with his mother Sophie Gnatek this past week as I made my nursing home visitations.  We talked a bit about her son, and in her understated manner she told me again that he had died on her birthday.  Then quietly she said this bothered her, a mother living to be 95 and burying her son.  It does not matter in the least if a mother spends only a few moments with her infant child as did Jill or whether a mother remembers the lifetime of her 70-something year old son, the feelings are the same and the essence of motherhood is left unchanged. 

On a different note, I attended Kristen Kopka’s wedding two days ago down in Stratford, CT.  There were a ton of clergy there, including her father, Bp. Kopka, who performed the marriage for his daughter.  There were more guys in long-flowing robes than there were bridesmaids in their fancy gowns.  But what struck me that day was Darlene Kopka, the bride’s mother.  She was escorted into church last and sat quietly through the whole ceremony, but it was the look on her face. This was her first child, her eldest daughter.  Kristen is in her late 20’s, but for Mrs. Kopka nothing has changed.  She’s still her mother and Kristen is still her daughter.  Again, motherhood is not about the quantity of time spent as a mother.  It’s about that quality of motherhood.  It’s about that spirit of a mother that changes its appearance on the outside so that her role is not played-out in the same way when a child is 6 as when the child is 26, but deep down the essence of motherhood is the same.  It’s not the quantity, but the quality that defines motherhood so that even when a son or daughter is no longer a child in need of constant nurture, a mother is still a mother.  It is this indescribable and unceasing gift of a mother’s love that calls us together today so that we may honour and celebrate Mother’s Day.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells His followers that He gives the gift of peace, but “not as the world gives do I give it to you.”  His gift possesses a qualitative difference.  The Roman Empire had brought peace to much of the developed world of its day, but it brought this peace by annihilating all those who dared to oppose it.  So when John’s Gospel records these words of a different kind of peace everyone who heard them knew exactly what Jesus was talking about.  It was an obvious qualitative difference between the way of the world and the way of Jesus.  Mothers also give their gifts as the world does not give.  Theirs is also of a qualitative difference.  A mother’s giving is selfless and unending.  I can explain the difference between mothers and the rest of us with a little story.  We’ve started to go looking at different colleges.  Kristin is a Junior and next year she has to start applying to the schools where she hopes to spend the following four years.  Now I love my daughter, but when I say, “18 more months and she’s off to college,” I say it with a big smile and with plans for a now vacant room in the house.  When Sharon says it, there’s a sad smile on her face and a very determined look that nothing will happen to that room because Kristin will be coming home to visit.  That’s the qualitative difference of motherhood in a nutshell.  That’s why we come together this day and honour motherhood in general, and why we celebrate the love and caring of each of our mothers in particular.

On this Mother’s Day, we pray for all of our mothers who are with us that God bless them for their everyday love and care.  May they enjoy this their special day.  And we also remember all of our mothers who have been called to their heavenly reward, praying that they may enjoy the eternal blessings that their faith, love and sacrifice have earned for them.  And we finally ask that we may come to better understand Jesus’ gifts of a different quality than from what the world can offer, and that we may do so by better appreciating the qualitative difference of a mother’s care and a mother’s love.  For these things we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.  (+)

Fr. Randolph Calvo


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