10 May 2015
“‘As the Father loves me so I also love you. Remain in my love.’” (John 15:9)
In the name …
Today the nation celebrates Mother’s Day, and the church joins in with her own prayers. Back in the 1950’s when marriage was almost a requirement, not a choice, when it was too often entered into because of financial necessity or social norm rather than love, there were many sociologists who were not great fans of the institution. They felt that marriage could force a lifestyle on the woman that she almost had to accept whether she wanted it or not, whether she wanted to be a mother or not. Sociologists today are reinvestigating their stances, however, because marriage is not a requirement, but a choice. What I’d like to take from this is that the traditional picture of the perfect family from like Leave It To Beaver, which many of the younger people here may not even recognize as an old television show, doesn’t have to define all perfect families. Sometimes those perfect looking families were extremely unpleasant. And sometimes the families we may consider untraditional and that we may judge harshly may be full of love. This is something we need to think about on Mother’s Day.
I bet everyone here saw the video clip of the Baltimore mom chasing her son away from the riots and back to their home. The boy was a masked 16 year old. He was throwing bricks at the police. He was not afraid of their tear gas, guns, being arrested, maybe worse. But when his mother, Toya Graham, showed up, grabbed him by the collar and smacked him on the side of the head, that young man listened, that young man was scared. Ms. Graham is a single mom of six children, 5 girls and Michael, her only son. That can’t be the best way to raise a family say sociologists today. They’ve come around to see the benefits of marriage and family life, but sometimes we may then assume that poor choices define everything about that family. But just like the perfect Leave It To Beaver looking household doesn’t mean everything is wonderful and happy so we can’t assume that compromised families are compromised in all that they do.
When Michael was interviewed after things had calmed down, he said that he was embarrassed by his mother’s actions. He said it was like World War III when she got a hold of him, and then to have it all caught on camera for everyone to see, it was embarrassing. Then he said when his mom got him home and talked to him about only wanting to protect her only son, that she didn’t want him to become another Freddie Gray, well then he understood that she acted like she did not to embarrass him but to protect him. In her words, “I was there to get my child.” He may be afraid of his mom, but he now knows for sure that his mom loves him. His mom said that every time he walks out her front door she worries if he’ll come back home. Their neighbourhood is filled with violence and the death of a teenage boy is sadly not exceptional, but for as problematic as it may be in that household and in that community, those six children are loved by their mom with the same kind of love that defines what motherhood should be about everywhere.
This is the love we honour and celebrate today. It can come in all sorts of packages. It can be seen in a mother’s hug or even in a mother’s smack to the side of the head like we all watched with Toya Graham. A mother’s love, for as different as it may be expressed, is selfless. That mother in Baltimore went down to the most dangerous part of town as riots were breaking out. She’s looking for her son, but there are also all of these other men and boys with their faces covered. Anything could have happened, but she didn’t care about her own welfare. It was the safety of her son that only mattered. And this is why the church joins the nation with our own prayers on Mother’s Day. As people of faith we see in a mother’s love a Christian love. Today Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “‘As the Father loves me so I also love you.’” The love that Jesus experienced coming from God the Father is the exact same love in turn that Jesus extends to His followers. Then Jesus encourages us to remain in that love. A mother shares her love with her children in much the same way, nothing is held back, and with the same hope that her children will remain in her love.
Toya Graham knew that her son was no innocent, but she also knew he wasn’t a thug. Seeing him on television with a brick in his hand and a mask over his face presented an unfavourable impression, but then to see him again outside of his home with his mother at his side showed a much different picture of the person. Here was a son just like other sons. I like to think of this as also a reflection of the way God’s love is shared with us through Jesus. He doesn’t see us through the eyes of strangers. He sees us like through the eyes of a mother. Toya Graham said that amidst all of that confusion when she saw her son’s eyes, even though his face was masked, she knew her boy. We can add all kinds of masks during our lives, but just like a mother, God can see us for who we really are behind our masks, and maybe because He’s God for even who we could be. A mother’s love can really help us to better understand the way God loves. And this is also why we celebrate Mother’s Day in the church.
In today’s Lesson God is defined simply and essentially as love. It’s not far off the mark to try and do the same with the ideal of motherhood. There is a pretty strong connection between the two. May God bless mothers in all that they do since what they do is for the good of all of us. And may the rest of us learn from a mother’s example to see the person and not the stereotype so that we may all become more like our God for as we heard today: “Let us love one another because love is of God.” (1 John 4:7) For these things we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo