Sunday, May 10, 2015

Reflecting Mom and Motherhood - Homily on Mother's Day (2015)

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
you make me happy when skies are gray
you’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.

Remembering Mom

This song is from a dimly lit memory, a memory that is very deep within me—so deep that it is at the core of who I am. I was about four years old and mom was holding me in her rocking chair, hugging me to sleep. This is the first of an ocean of memories that, as I step back and reflect on them and put them into words, fill me with gratitude and with some tears. One of the blessings of priesthood is the task of putting together homilies; doing so forces me to take the time that ordinarily I might not. But, because I do, I grow in a greater appreciation and a greater love for my mother.

I remembered how, when she was looking for work after the divorce, she was thinking of us kids first and how was she going to afford college for us. She took a secretarial job at WashU and has worked behind a desk for many years now, oftentimes without a window to the outside world, simply so that us kids could have a better life.

I remembered how, when I nearly threw it all away—totally ignorant of her sacrifices—she never once complained. Instead, as I was frantically pulling an all-nighter to complete a necessary paper for graduation, she was staying up praying all night for me.

I remembered her joy, her laugh, and her ability to tickle me in just the right spot. every. time.

I remembered with regret the many occasions that I was too busy to spend time with her or too prideful to acknowledge her wisdom or too impatient to simply let her worry about me and nag me and love me and do what mothers do.

For example, mom is always telling me to be safe. She’s always telling all of us kids when we leave her home, “Be safe.” Some of us kids have, I embarrassingly admit, poked fun of this fact that she is always telling us to be safe. But as I sat and prayed and reflected and put together this homily, I realized a depth in those words. Mom was communicating everything that mom is, every dimension of love within herself that she has for us. Beneath the words, there is an ocean which I will never know the depths of, but which we know is there. I cannot help but know that when mom hugs me and calls me “Sweetie,” that the depth of her love which I both receive and which I do not totally fathom is the place where God is and where He has given mothers what makes them mothers: His very tangible and very real image.

The Woman of Motherhood

There is something of the woman that does bring us to a holy genuflection and the admission that there is something greater than us men here. The woman, able to bear life within herself, carries the immortality of the human soul like a holy tabernacle; the woman, able to feed and nourish her young with her very body, speaks in a unison with Our Lord that few of us have the privilege of sharing when together our moms and our Lord say to us: This is my body, given for you.

The enfleshment of sacrificial, life-giving love: this is at the core of who the woman is. It is why so many women, who long to be married and have kids but who have not yet or who have been told that they will never do so—it is because of love which is at their core that they mourn. To those women and especially those women who carry the cross of infertility: I know this day is painful for you and we are with you in love!

Yes, the self-giving love at the core of motherhood is also why distance between mom and her children is so tough for her. It is why miscarriages or the loss of child for whatever reason is so devastating. It is why, when the nest is empty, mom grieves and hopes not only for a phone call, but that there might be an attempt on our part to enter into the great depth which is the ocean of her love for us which is at the very essence of who she is.

And because mom is at the heart of us, when we see mom suffer or pass on, we mourn her—but we continue to love her. We pray for our mothers who have died. We also pray for healing for those mothers who might not have been very good at carrying the weight of motherhood; we know there have been some who have been hurt by moms. Because we are children of moms, we know that these wounds can be quite deep. May our Lord bring healing to all and a rediscovery of joy in the beauty of motherhood.

The Call of Mother’s Day

Yes, motherhood is beautiful. And I realize that cards, flowers, and words of thanks cannot possibly reach the level of expression necessary to return so great a gift. I am not worthy of such a gift. None of us are.

I realize that it is a gift given to us by God and I recall the words we heard today:

In this is love:
not that we have loved God, but that he loved us

He has given us our mothers as a sign of His love. Therefore, I thank not only mom today, but I also thank God for my mom. It only seems right.

But to mom: I find that the only way to adequately express our love is by imitation. This is what we do when we love something: we become like it, we take on its ways, we live it’s life. Young men become like their dads or perhaps like their priests. Young women become like their moms or their religious sisters. The best way for us to show our love on Mother’s Day is to imitate.

We are also called to uphold everything that leads to the embrace of a mother’s life. That makes sense: if we love mom, we would want others to see that and experience that and uphold it.

So isn’t it interesting—isn’t it odd—that in our culture there is such expression of love and affection for moms today but, in the same breath our culture demands we support the lifestyles, medications, and procedures that take motherhood away?

Only a contraceptive culture that says: I love my mom, but I don’t want to become one.

And we must remember than in abortion, it’s not just children that are aborted, but motherhood as well.

Therefore, I urge our young couples as Pope Francis did: do not cut short motherhood by the use of contraception, sterilization, or by a lifestyle that seeks to be comfortable. (Your mom wasn’t when she had you). Do not make a desert of the great ocean of love that you have within you! Do not condemn your later years to loneliness!

And if you have, then know that Mother Church—a mother who is wise and who is loving—She will welcome you back in a heartbeat. There is no condemnation here, but open arms.

Perhaps you might not like what I just said. Well, I get my truth-telling from my mom.

And truth-be-told, if we should be really honest, if all of us have a deep appreciation for our moms, then we would never willingly deprive a child of having a mom as is done by those who advocate that it’s ok for families to be headed without a mom—for example, to be headed by two men. As awesome as we might think ourselves to be, men cannot replace mom.

Yes, it is because I love my mom that I encourage others to enter into the great grace of becoming one. I cherish motherhood, I protect it, I stand up for it. My integrity doesn’t allow me to say “Happy Mother’s Day” and then support those things that take the motherhood that we claim to celebrate.

A Prayer

Let us ask Mary, whom God Himself chose to be His Mother, to intercede for us, that we might rediscover our moms and the great and wonderful mystery of motherhood.

Mary, you who are our Mother, a mother who loves us and calls us your children, help us to cherish our mothers. Help us to rediscover motherhood. Help us not only to have sentimental niceties about it, but to really cherish it and to remember it and to protect it. Your love for us is so deep and so beautiful. Lead us to a greater appreciation of mom today… and always. Amen.

I’d like to end where I began, with a song. I said that mom sang it to me. Well, it is in me because mom is in me—and so I sing it back to her now.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
you make me happy when skies are gray
you’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.


If you want to read more, I highly encourage pursuing this article. 

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