Sermons

May 14: Fifth Sunday of Easter — Mother’s Day

“Amen, Amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.” John14: 1-12.

Easter is about the optimism that marks us as a people of faith, hope and love.

Yesterday, I came on the Santa Catalina campus to attend the Mass of First Holy Communion for second graders. I drove to a parking place, opened the car door, and then began “to smell the roses.” There are thousands of roses here in full bloom welcoming spring. Wow!

What a special time of year, a spring season of growth, refreshment and beauty all around us. Easter optimism among our youngsters reflects this beauty.

The Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote: “It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”

Such is the youthful and eager hope that marks Easter. Let’s examine this hopeful tenderness on this Mother’s Day.

A few days back, on April 25, Pope Francis participated in his first TED Talk. He spoke to participants about handing over the future, from generation to generation, and stated:

“To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is hope.

Hope is the virtue of a heart – able to see tomorrow.

Hope is the door that opens on to the future.

A single individual is enough for hope to exist. And that individual can be you.

And then there will be another ‘you.’ And another ‘you,’ and it turns into an ‘us.’

Whenever there is an ‘us,’ there begins the revolution of tenderness.”

Today is Mother’s Day, a moment each year when we take time to honor women who have accomplished the work of tenderness or life-giving “generative love.”

Sometimes these are single moms, and working moms, and “care-givers” to their children, or perhaps, caring for elderly parents at home or in assisted living.

All of these actions of love and tenderness – have a life giving grace that stays with us.

In this way, our mothers tenderly hand over our future to us.

Is there any connection between the hopeful Easter season and Mother’s Day? Here’s my try.

Mother’s Day as a national celebration began as a result of the “activism” by women during the Civil War. Journalist and public speaker, Julia Ward Howe advanced the idea of a “Mothers Day” to honor the women, including her own mother, who nursed Civil War wounded – sons, husbands, brothers. These women were the only recourse as “care givers” in the aftermath of that deadly war.

In the early 20th century, another activist, Anna Jarvis petitioned President Woodrow Wilson to make “Mother’s Day” a national holiday. She championed the idea that the brave women who worked in public health, knew first-hand deadly diseases like the 1918 flu epidemic and its effect on countless children.

In the United Kingdom, the idea of “Mothering Day” took a different course. Celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent, so-call Laetare Sunday, this feast honored mothers but also required a visit to that “mother church,” in one’s town – perhaps, the cathedral of the town or diocese; and to the very location of one’s own baptism.

With the baking of special cakes for dessert – this visit to “Mum” was a recognition of one’s own spiritual birth in waters of baptism – the very location for grace and family celebration.

Today on Mother’s Day, in a more commercial fashion, we celebrate mothers with over 21 billion dollars generated in revenue for greeting cards, flowers, dining at restaurants, and the myriad ways of saying thanks to those women, and other care givers in our lives.

Keep in mind, the deeply religious element in May — a month dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was his witness, and together their healing work of love, tenderness and mercy is ours.

Jesus too, like us, may have taken so much from his mother.

But seldom, do we consider Jesus as a “mother,” maybe a brother or a father? How might we describe the maternal aspect of Jesus?

Saint Anselm, over 1,000 years ago in Canterbury, wrote this unique prayer, making reference to Jesus as a mother.

Anselm prays:

Jesus as our Mother you gather your people to you;

You are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

Often you weep over our sins and our pride; tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgment.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds; in sickness you nurse us and feed us.

Lord in your mercy heal us; in your love and tenderness remake us. In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness.

For the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.

Amen.

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