8 May 2011
“And it happened that while He was with them at table, He took break, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him …(Lk 24: 30-31a)
In the name …
Sometimes I like to point out that mothers are treated much better on Mother’s Day than are fathers on Father’s Day. But this year it goes another step further. This year Easter was just about as late as it possibly could be, just two weeks prior to Mother’s Day. Every year the Youth Group sells Easter flowers as a fundraiser. This year we couldn’t because there were none to be had. The wholesaler we deal with was growing flowers for Mother’s Day rather than lilies for Easter. There wasn’t enough time to grow both one after the other, or enough space to grow them all together so there were no lilies to be had. Mother’s Day trumped even Easter this year! Easter! The resurrection!
Mothers must be doing something right to deserve this kind of special treatment. And the church agrees. We celebrate Mother’s Day every year with special prayers, hymns, the crowning of Mary’s statue and a little gathering after Mass. We do so because mothers are the first church. Mothers are usually the first ones to introduce children to God. They teach them their first prayers, they tell them their first Bible stories, they explain to them what’s going on when they first come to Mass and start asking their uniquely phrased questions about all the new and different things they see. My favourite has always been the little child’s question, the very perceptive, precocious, little child’s question, “Mommy, is Fr. Calvo God?”
They have an innocence that mothers can nurture better than others even if it comes at a cost. The true story was shared with the world by a father. His two year old daughter was with her mother in a dentist’s waiting room while the older sister was having her teeth cleaned. She was keeping herself busy playing with the toys provided by the doctor’s office, that is until she noticed that he mom was resting with her eyes closed. According to the father, who shared it with the world-wide-web, there were about six other adults in the waiting room when the young daughter marched over to her mother, looked her straight in the face and shook her shoulders saying, “Mommy, wake up! This is not church!” All the others in the waiting room, said the father, couldn’t keep from laughing.
And long after a child is no longer a child a mother is still a mother. The relationship changes, which is natural and healthy, but some of the fundamentals always remain. They may not be as clearly seen as with the mother of a little child, but motherhood is still there. It’s not unlike the Gospel story shared today about the resurrection appearance on the Road to Emmaus. Two of Jesus’ followers are on this road leading away from Jerusalem and from the events of Holy Week. As they walk a stranger joins them and enters into their conversation. They tell Him about the unbelievable reports of the empty tomb. When they reach their destination of Emmaus, they encourage the stranger to spend the night with them. As they gather for supper, and as the stranger takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and shares it with them, they recognize Him finally as Jesus. These are words, take, bless, break, that should sound familiar, and they are intended to remind us of Holy Communion. The two disciples did not at first recognize Jesus, but in the breaking of bread, in Holy Communion, their eyes were opened to His extraordinary presence.
We may not see Jesus among us because we have become accustomed to Holy Communion. It’s an ordinary presence. It’s available here every time you come to Mass except for Good Friday. In this way, it’s ordinary. But that ordinariness, says Luke to us today, should not displace the sacredness of Jesus’ real presence in the sacrament. Just as the disciples’ eyes were opened and they saw Jesus at the breaking of bread, so says the Evangelist, should our eyes be opened at the breaking of bread during the Mass. We should be awed by the nearness of God even if it can be approached on any given Sunday of the year. Sometimes in a similar fashion we don’t see the blessings of motherhood in the mothers around us because we’ve become accustomed to them, we get used to them, but it is behind their ordinary presence that we can still find their extraordinary gifts of love, compassion and willing sacrifice – if we but look.
Sometimes it takes the extraordinary to remind us again of these ordinary blessings of motherhood. In its own context, that’s the message of the Road to Emmaus story when the resurrected Jesus is seen in the sacrament of Communion. But when it comes to motherhood, the extraordinary was seen this past week in the emotional testimony of Phoebe Prince’s mother. In court she addressed the teenagers who were convicted of bullying her daughter to such an extent that she committed suicide. Her words and her raw emotion were completely understandable because any mother would have acted in exactly the same way. It is tragically unfortunate that we are too often exposed to these universal emotions of motherhood in the context of such a sad story, but her testimony reminds all of us about the passionate love of a mother. This love may be overlooked except at extraordinary times like that of the courtroom testimony of Phoebe Prince’s mother, but at least on Mother’s Day we are given the chance to acknowledge all of the extraordinary ordinary gifts of motherhood.
Today we say our “Thank- you’s” to mothers. Like the cartoon at the end of today’s song sheet, tomorrow we may return to life as normal, but for at least today we acknowledge and celebrate all that is good in motherhood. We also pray for our mothers who have been called to their eternal reward. On this day especially we remember their love and example. And just like on the Road to Emmaus, we pray this morning that our eyes be opened to all that mothers do for us, and to all the love they hold for us in such an ordinary, extraordinary way. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo