Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothers Love Like Christ Loves (5.B-Mother's Day)

A parishioner came up to me after Mass not long ago and said "my wife thought last week's homily was one of your best ever." As I started to say thanks for such a nice compliment, he added cheerfully "although I didn't agree with her"!

Such are the perils of preaching. You can't please everybody.

There's a good reason for this: it's a rare homily that connects with everybody. Our backgrounds, ages, interests and experiences are so different that it's very hard to find common ground in applying the Gospel message in a concrete and practical way.

Today, though, it's easy to connect the Gospel to our experience. The common ground today is universal: motherhood. Every single person in church this morning has a mother, whether living or deceased. And of course nearly half the congregation lives the vocation of motherhood.

(By the way, notice that I used the present tense--because a mother's job is never finished. The other day the mother of adults told me that she'd sighed to her own mother when her children were young "Twenty more years of worry," only to be told "No such luck. You'll pray and worry about them for the rest of your days!")

But don't expect a sentimental Mother's Day homily. There's nothing sentimental about my message , which comes straight from this morning's Gospel: Mothers lay down their lives for their children. Mothers do for their children what Christ did for us on the cross.

As I said, this is not a sentimental message. Imitating Christ is not sentimental. It is hard work, and all of us are called to do it.

Obviously, the call comes in different forms to different people. All of us are called to lay down our lives by sacrificing our will for God's will--by fulfilling the demands that come with being friends of Jesus, who has commanded us freely to love one another. But on this special day it seems more than appropriate to reflect on how mothers live out their particular call.

First, a mother's love is about as close as you'll come on earth to Christ's self-giving, sacrificial and unconditional love. When I Googled "a mother," it immediately completed the phrase as "a mother's love." Short of voluntary martyrdom, it is hard to find a greater love on earth than the love a mother shows for her children. There is even something Christ-like in the suffering of childbirth.

Secondly, by definition a mother's love is fruitful. Children, of course, are the fruit born of the love between mother and father, between husband and wife. But their successful upbringing is the fruit of patience, love, encouragement, correction, and much more--not, I hasten to add, from the mother only, but certainly from her particularly, especially in the early years of development.

So much that all of us do in life disappears from view. Former Canuck star Trevor Linden was always the most popular visitor to children in hospital. He laughed the other day when he said that now he can only excite their parents, since seven years after his retirement, the kids have no idea who he is!

Parenthood, however, is a fruit of love that lasts, as the faith and solid values are handed down through the generations.

As we ponder our Lord's words in the Gospel today, we find many reasons to admire and appreciate our mothers. Stopping there, however, would miss the point. Motherhood is only an example of living Christ's call in everyday life. Motherhood's just a particularly obvious way to lay down your life for others. The call is for everyone--parent, child, married, single, young, old.

Today Jesus challenges us all to love as he did. What that means if you're a young mother--or father--of three is pretty obvious. You don't need to go looking for ways to sacrifice, though you do need to connect the demands of parenthood to your faith, to the carrying of the cross, because that connection makes your burden lighter and nobler.

What it means if you suffer from a malicious neighbour or relative is something else again; to love as Christ loved means loving the truly unlovable.

Loving others with the love of Jesus is fruitful loving. I've already used children as an example of the fruit of love. But sacrificial loving also bears fruit in our own hearts. It makes us better persons. It burns away our natural selfishness and brings us closer to God.

And what unexpected fruit can come loving the unlovable. We all know at least one or two of those folks--the bitter, the spiteful, the critical--and if they're next door or in the family they can make us truly miserable. Learning to love them with the love of Christ can bear two lasting fruits. First, it always frees our hearts. But sometimes it also frees them from their narrow prison, often many years after we first began to pray for them and show them love.

Today, we give thanks to God for the gift of our mothers and their fruitful love. But in doing so, let's all renew our commitment to follow their example in our daily lives by loving one another as Christ loved us.

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