Sunday, May 15, 2011

Homily for Mother's Day

Ecce Mater Tua

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter
(Mother’s Day)
8th of May, 2011

Parish of Saints Peter and Paul
Rev. Mr. Michael Taylor

Who shall find a valiant woman? Far, and from the uttermost coasts is the value of her…Strength and beauty are her clothing, and she shall laugh late in the day. She hath opened her mouth to wisdom, and the law of clemency is on her tongue. She hath looked well on the paths of her house, and hath not eaten her bread idle. Her children rose up, and called her blessed: her husband, and he praised her.[1]

            Mothers are amazing. I do not need to tell you that, you probably already know that. That being said, it is worth remembering, and today, across the country, people (hopefully) are taking the time to call their mother’s and wish them a Happy Mother’s day. We all know that the bond between a mother and her children is strong, just from our experience. However, science is beginning to reveal just how deep that bond goes. Science shows that a mother carries the DNA of every child she has carried for the rest of her life. That child remains a part of every mother forever. Furthermore, when a mother nurses her child, the pheromones given off between woman and child create an invisible chemical bond, which allows a mother to realize when her child is near even if she cannot see or hear them. Finally, as many of you know, mothers are psychic and develop eyes in the back of their heads. It’s true. Scientific fact.
            In all seriousness though, motherhood is one of the great gifts of this life. Mothers literally give of their flesh and blood so that they might bring new life into this world.[2] The ability to bring children into this world is a sacred act. In Genesis, we hear that man and woman were created as the image of God.[3] God then commanded that they increase and multiply.[4] We as human beings have the potential to create the image of God, to create a life which mirrors the Divine Creator of all life. How amazing is this reality? Is it any wonder then that when we look at a new born baby, we are filled with joy and happiness? “Human life is sacred-all men must recognize that fact. From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God.” [5] God created purely out of love, and thus, our ability to create is only fully realized when it is done out of love. “Married love [6] particularly reveals its true nature and nobility from God, who is love, [7] the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” [8]  
            That is one of the greatest things of marriage is this gift of love, literally a giving of love. Marriage goes beyond just the ability to live together in the same space for a prolonged period of time. The sacrament of marriage imparts a grace which unites a man and woman together. Notice the words of Christ Jesus, for this reason shall a man leave father and mother, and shall join his wife, and the two shall be one in flesh.[9] Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man tear asunder.[10] What greater sign of this unity exists than children, who share equally of both father and mother, united and inseparable as one person? Mothers are given the sacred task of caring for children, signs of God’s blessing, and care for them. For a man, can there be a greater statement of love than to say, “I love you so much, that I want you to be the mother of my children?” A man who says that is not just saying, “I love you for the moment” or “I love you, but apart from that, I’m not sure.” A man who desires to have children is saying “I am here for the long haul. I love not only you, but I want to create a family with you.”  A husband who seeks children is giving himself entirely to the marriage. He holds nothing back.
            Consider the words of Saint Paul in his letter to the Church in Ephesus. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and delivered Himself up for it…So also ought men love their wives as they their own bodies…For this reason shall a man leave his father and mother: and he shall join to his wife. And they shall be two as one flesh.[11] Christ gave Himself up entirely for the sake of His Church, which is His bride. He gave everything, body, blood and spirit[12] so that there might be new life. Likewise, a husband is called to give nothing less than every fiber his being to his marriage. It is in this very act that a man proves himself a man. “Love for his wife as mother of their children and love for the children themselves are for the man the natural way of understanding and fulfilling his own fatherhood.” [13] And yet, so very often, this is not the case. Children are no longer seen as blessings from the Lord. The very thing that women are able to offer so completely to is devalued, seen as an inconvenience or worse, something to be gotten rid of.
            In our culture, we shun marriage and we shun children. How many people do you know who are living together before marriage? How many people do you know who are married but are avoiding having children? Why do we do this? What are we actually communicating when we do that? Men, listen to this. If I am living with my girlfriend, am I not actually saying, “I love you now. But I might not love you later.” Or if I am married, but not wanting children, is this not the same as saying, “well, I love you, but I’m not sure if I’d love you with others around.” “I love you, but if things change, I might not love you.” [14]And so the very gift that is motherhood becomes devalued. Children are the surest sign that I love you no matter how much things change. That I accept everything that happens in life with my wife, because she is the mother of my children, they who literally are flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. Yet this is not what happens. Women become afraid that if they get pregnant, they won’t be attractive to their husbands. Wives are afraid that if they are not able to work, they won’t be seen as valuable to either their husbands or to society. How many of you have ever felt pressure to be both super career woman and super mom? For some reason, we seem to think that raising children is not enough. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a mother chasing after two toddlers, wiping spit up from an infant and baking cup cakes for the oldest kid’s kindergarten class and thought, “it’s a shame she isn’t doing more with her life.” I mean, do we really believe that raising children is any easier than any career we could have?
            Now, I am not saying that women shouldn’t work. I’m not saying that women have nothing to contribute to society.[15] So often when the virtue of motherhood is given praise, it is then twisted by some to imply a negative, that women are only capable of being mothers. This is not true. What I am saying is that being a mother is so spectacularly amazing a vocation that if a woman did nothing else in her life but raise her children to be holy, than it would be enough to have her be a canonized saint.[16] Motherhood is so great a gift, that it should be highly prized and honored as such. “Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb. The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and understands with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the “beginning”, the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings-not only towards her own child, but every human being- which profoundly marks the woman’s personality.” [17]
            I would be remiss if I did not mention the most famous mother of all time, Mary, the Mother of God.[18] While there is much that can be said about our Blessed Mother, there is one aspect in particular that I would like to focus on. When I was Protestant one of the biggest obstacles to my becoming Catholic were Marian devotions. I couldn’t understand them. Finally, one of my Catholic friends asked me, “does anything the Church actually teaches about Mary take away from Christ?” To which I had to respond, “no, no it doesn’t.” “Then don’t worry about it. You’ll understand her when she’s ready for you to understand her.” That moment of understanding didn’t occur until I was in seminary. It was the vigil before the Immaculate Conception on December 8th, and I was sitting in our chapel during the Eucharistic Adoration the seminary holds during this solemnity. All of a sudden it hit. My mother had died when I was seventeen, years before I even thought about becoming Catholic. She died on December 7th. That night in the chapel, it occurred to me that God, knowing the pain that my mother’s death would cause me, gave me the feast of His mother’s conception, literally, the words given to His apostle at the foot of the cross, Behold, your mother.[19] If Mary gave Jesus His human nature, and we share in His body and blood, then we are every bit as much Mary’s children as we are our own mother’s. This is a critical aspect of Mary’s place in our faith.
Now I can’t draw a stick figure to save my life. But, when I was kid, I’d still bring my drawings of squiggles home. I’d show my dad when he got home. Now, my dad would look at them and say “oh, that’s nice,” and then go back to watching the news. But if I showed them to my mom first, then when I showed my dad, my mom would be like, “James, look what Michael did. Isn’t it great.” That was my dad’s clue that this was something he needed to pay attention to. It is the same with our Blessed Mother. She takes our prayers, misshapen, malformed and small as they are and takes them to her son and says, “look Son. Look what your brothers and sisters did. Isn’t it wonderful?” And, like a good son, Jesus always honors His mother [20] and gives heed to her requests.[21] To all you moms out there, thank you for that you’ve done, God bless you, and happy mother’s day.

[1] Proverbs 31.10, 25-28
[2] Blessed Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, §18: “Motherhood is the fruit of the marriage union of a man and woman, of that biblical “knowledge” which corresponds to the union of the two in one flesh (cf. Gen 2.24). This brings about-on the woman’s part- a special gift of self, an expression of that spousal love whereby the two are united to each other so closely that they become “one flesh.”
[3] Cf. Genesis 1.27: And God created man to his own image: to the image of God He created him; male and female he created them.
[4] Genesis 1.28
[5] Blessed Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra and Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae §13
[6] Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, §8
[7] I John 4.8
[8] Ephesians 3.15
[9] Cf. Ephesians 5.31
[10] Matthew 19.6-7
[11] Ephesians 5.25, 28, 31
[12] Cf. I John 5.6
[13] Blessed John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, §25
[14] Cf. Blessed Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, §14: “The man was also entrusted by the Creator to the woman- they were entrusted to each other as persons made in the image and likeness of God himself. This entrusting is the test of love, spousal love. In order to become a “sincere gift” to one another, each of them has to feel responsible for the gift.”
[15] Blessed Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, §23: “While it must be recognized that women have the same right as men to perform various public functions, society must be structured in such a way that wives and mothers are not in practice compelled to work outside the home, and that their families can live and prosper in a dignified way even when they themselves devote their full time to their own family.”
[16] Cf. I Timothy 2.15: Yet she shall be saved through childbearing; if she continue in faith, and love, and sanctification, with sobriety.
[17] Blessed Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, §18
[18] Blessed Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, §19: “Motherhood has been introduced into the order of the Covenant that God made with humanity in Jesus Christ. Each and every time that motherhood is repeated in human history, it is always related to the covenant which God made with the human race through the motherhood of the Mother of God.”
[19] John 19.27
[20] Cf. Exodus 20.12, Deuteronomy 5.16, Ephesians 6.2-3
[21] Proverbs 6.20: My son, keep the commandments of thy Father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.

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