“Men of Galilee, why gaze in wonder at the sky? This Jesus, you saw ascending into heaven, will return as you saw him go.” Acts 1:11.
The nearness of God is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ – the “human face of God among us.” As we celebrate this feast of the Ascension, it is not so much a realization of his moving away from his human form, rather a conviction that “he is never far from any of us.”
We are told in scripture that he is present, “where two or three are gathered in my name.” In the words of John, “If you love me, my father and I will make a home with you.” And last week, we heard, “I give you a new commandment, love one another.”
Today is Mother’s day when we celebrate the love and affection for those who have called us into being, and the kind of love, like God’s love for us, that most often abides with us now and in the future.
On this feast day, and on the very day when we honor our mothers, today, a telephone call to mom might be on your mind.
And, for those of you who have come to Santa Catalina from Mexico, China or Korea, you know first hand how difficult how it was when first you arrived here, and your mothers’ were back home so concerned about you and your welfare.
So let me provide a short story that may tie together this bond of love that knows no distance, the kind of love that is enduring, and, to the best of my belief, even eternal.
This past week, Washington Post writer Kathryn Tolbert published a compelling story about Col. Bruce Hollywood and his search for his mother in an article entitled “He searched for his Japanese birth mother. He found her.” (May 8).
“I’ve got to tell you,” Col. Hollywood told the reporter, “if I didn’t live it, I almost wouldn’t believe it.”
Yes, this is a story about mothers, and what you might say is “long-distance” love.
The story begins in 2005 at the Pentagon parking lot in Virginia, where Col. Hollywood suffered a heart attack.
In those dizzying moments in an ambulance headed to Walter Reed Army hospital, he thought of his regrets — just in case he might not make it.
He told himself that he wanted to be around to help his son fill out college applications. But also, he deeply regretted that he had not explored his own Japanese identity – and never had the opportunity to thank his birth mother in Japan for giving him the gift of life.
Born in 1960, Hollywood was born in Japan and adopted by an American military couple stationed there.
Even though his adoptive parents encouraged him to locate his birth mother by the name of Nobue Ouchi and possibly write to her, Bruce Hollywood never got around to it. Now during his medical recovery, this search would become vitally important to him.
With little information other than a name and a possible location, he began the search. The Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the American Embassy in Tokyo were not able to locate her, nor did the work of a private detective. Weeks and months passed by with some frustration.
Then, a random meeting opened the right doors. While waiting at a bar for an international flight at Dulles International Airport, Bruce Hollywood met a fellow military office of Japanese-American heritage and shared his story. The brief encounter with Adm. Harry Harris ended with the admiral assuring Hollywood: “You know, I can help!”
Several days later, seated at his desk in the Pentagon, the telephone rang. It was the Japanese Embassy with the news, “Colonel Hollywood, we’re really pleased to tell you that we have found your mother Nobue Ouchi… (and) she’s going to call you at this phone number in 10 minutes, and she doesn’t speak English. Good luck!”
Well, it was more than luck; Hollywood was at the Pentagon, where he was quickly able to locate a translator.
It was more than luck – this is a story of grace.
Moments later, Nobue Ouchi told her story to her son. The translator provided a capsule of this woman’s life: how she never married, and yet waited for the return of a son whose photograph as a very young boy held an honored place. Her restaurant/bar she called “Bruce,” named after him.
The translator added: “Well, tomorrow is your mother’s 65th birthday, and the birthday present that she dreamed of her whole life is that you would come back to her.”
Two weeks later, Col. Hollywood stepped off a train at Shizuoka, Japan, some hours from Tokyo — to reunite with his mother.
Please read Elizabeth Tolbert’s article. It comes from a section of the Washington Post entitled “Inspired Lives,” and these are genuinely inspiring lives on a Mother’s day.
Tolbert’s overall effort includes a forthcoming film documentary as part of her “war bride project.” She tells stories of Japanese women who married American servicemen during World War II. I have linked both the Washington Post article and her website to francisfactor.com.
Yes, this is Mother’s Day, and the liturgical feast day of the Ascension, where the love of Jesus knows no particular geography or distance.
He is never far from any of us, and when we gather in his name or find ourselves doing his service to those most in need, you know he is present.
So you may ask the connection between this feast and Mother’s day?
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, referring to Jesus as a mother.
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.
Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA