Today, as we celebrate 3 rd Sunday of Easter, we are also celebrating “Mother’s Day.” This is a celebration of both thanking God for the giftof eternal life through the Resurrection of Jesus as we heard proclaimed in today’s Gospel and our gratitude to God for giving us our mothers who have done and sacrificed so much for us.
Even as Jesus was hanging on the Cross, dying and gasping for His last breathe He did not forget to provide the needed care for His mother. So He said to His beloved apostle, “John this is your mother” and then turning to His Mother Jesus also said, “Mother, this is your son.” In this, amongst other things, Jesus is reminding all of us that we must never forget to care and honour our mothers regardless of what happens to us in our lives.
On Mother’s Day it is customary that we thank our mothers through listing the good things that they do, have done and continue to do for us. I am sure we all agree that today, we have rightly to salute our mothers whether they are still alive or not as they are one of the most selfless groups of people we have on earth. We can also say that mothers have one of the most demanding, difficult and distressing vocation in the Church; more than any Parish Priests; even as my hair is turning white!
I think one of the important aspects on Mother’s Day is to pay special tribute to our aging mothers, now grandmothers because they can be so easily forgotten. Because of the hectic and demanding lifestyle of our contemporary secular society, we Asians no longer seem to define filial piety as taking care of our aged parents in our own homes, unless we can afford to employ domestic helpers to care for them. Whether they are in our homes or they are in a hospice, today’s celebration of Mother’s Day calls us to salute and specially thank them and assure them that we still love them for all the love and sacrifices that they have shown us.
To remember what these ageing mothers may be going through and how we should not take them for granted in their aging years, I would like to read the letter that Mrs Dobson wrote to her children on her 80 th birthday; probably a true story I believe (by Jerry Shirley which I will adapt for our use). She wrote: “ I suppose my upcoming birthday started my thoughts along these lines. This is a good time to tell you that what I truly want are things I can never get enough of, yet they are all free. I want the intangibles not material things of life.
I would simply like you to come home more often and sit with me, and for you to be more relaxed instead of rushing around so much every day. We can talk, or we can be silent; I just like us to be together. I need your patience when I don’t hear what you say the first time. I know how tiresome it is to be always repeating, but sometimes I must ask you to repeat. I need your patience when I think too much about the past, with my slowness and my set ways. I want you to be more tolerant with what the years have done to me physically.
Please also be understanding about my personal care habits. I spill things. I lose things. I get unduly excited when things fall out of my routine and so I can’t remember whether I have taken my medication or not. Some day, I may take too many naps, but sleep does help me pass the day. Well, there you have it: I need more of your time, patience, and understanding. These are the priceless giftsI need. When the Apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me.” I know I can, too! It’s a wonderful feeling to know that as God’s eye is on every little sparrow that feeds and fly, that I am infinitely more precious than the thousands of sparrows that He has created. So, I guess being old isn’t so bad after all! Love, Mom.
For many of us whose mothers are still alive and for the many of us who had to care for our mothers before they died, this letter of Mrs Dobson to her children reminds us of how our dear mothers are very human like us; they too need as much love as we ourselves need affection and love from people who mean much to us. It is good to remember that one day we too would grow old and be like Mrs Dobson, and we too will have all the needs and ailments of what goes with aging.
Would we want our children to give us the continued care, affection and love that Mrs Dobson speaks of in her letter? If so, then as adult children, should we not now value the precious moments we still have with our aging parents who are still alive and give them the best love we can ever give?
Even as I say all these, I am aware that in some family situations, especially when a mother and child’s relationship is strained and even broken, it is very difficult to live the Gospel that Jesus lived. However, let us be reminded that the care and love that Jesus showed to His mother was when He was suffering intensely and was at the point of His death on the Cross. So, however strained or broken our relationship may be with our mothers, it would still be far from the pains and suffering that Jesus went through.
My own mother passed away 35 years ago; like many of you I am very blessed to have the “best mother in the world.” Till today, I still occasionally have very warm and happy dreams of her. I can still vividly remember how even as a young boy I would see her caring and loving us in the most selfless way we can expect of any person. We children would always come first and her needs would always be the last.
My mother told us that one of my older sister had died of perhaps of pneumonia when she was around 3 years old. Since then, whenever my younger brother got sick, mom would have sleepless nights worrying and caring for my brother. And whenever any of the rest of our seven siblings had needs, mom would take care of them. If my father was the head of the family, my mom was the heart of the family so to speak. Mom was always there, with dad, through thick and thin and the pains and challenges that they had to face in bringing up a family of eight children. Most importantly, I could see clearly that it was ultimately mom’s and dad’s faith in God that gave them strength, meaning and hope in everything they did and lived for. I could see and experience all these even when I was a young boy and growing up.
In contrast, one of our parishioners told me some years ago that seven out of her ten friends now have dogs and cats as pets instead of having children because they think it is too much of a burden to be bound in the home. This is because they say that they still want to have their freedom to travel and have their yearly vacation. I will not reflect on such secular attitudes further as we all know they are totally against the Gospel values of selflessness and sacrifice in our vocation that Jesus preached and lived.
Happily, I also know of some young and brilliant professionals who have given up part or for some their career fully just to take care of their children as they see them as great blessings from God. In the way they love their children, I can see how they have to be so selfless and sacrificing in being good mothers. Yet, I can also see how blessed and happy these young mothers are just to be able to love their children every day in the home and not to worry about their career. I can see how these young professionals, like my mother, are turning out to be the “best mothers in the world” for their children. However, even for such dedicated mothers, their lives are filled with daily pains and challenges.
Billy Graham had a favourite story about a husband which is appropriate to share (adapted) here. Dave has not been a very attentive husband. One day Dave started feeling guilty about it and decided to change for the better. So, on his way home he went to buy a box of chocolate and a bunch of flowers to surprise his wife. When his wife opened the door, Dave started singing, “I love you truly, truly my Dear . . .” “O Dave,” his wife started to cry, “Everything has gone wrong today; the sink is leaking, our son is sick, the teachers called up to complain about our daughter, and now you come home drunk!”
Like the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, there are times in our lives when we rightly feel depressed, helpless and hopeless. These are symbolised in today’s Gospel in different ways: we see the disciples walking towards sunset instead of sunrise; heading towards dusk instead of the dawn of sunrise; we are then not surprised to here of how their hopes and dreams about Jesus have been shattered. These are the feelings of Dave’s wife and many mothers whose challenges in life are daunting and depressive.
However, the Good News of today’s Gospel of the Risen Christ is that we also know and believe that during such trying moments, Jesus our Risen Lord will come to our rescue. And so, when the disciples recognised the Risen Christ, they ran back to Jerusalem 12 km away, even though it was night. This was because their hearts were not only burning within them, but bursting with a joy that could not be contained, but has to be shared with the other disciples.
To conclude, let us be consoled by today’s Gospel which assures us that the Word of God and the Eucharist will always give us the strength and the needed hope to face all the challenges of our contemporary secular world. The young professional mothers and many of our model mothers show us that this is possible for you and me. Thus, we are each called and challenged to be open and be set ablazed by the same Spirit of the Risen Christ in our daily living. Happy Mother’s Day!
I would now like us to spend a few moments in silence to allow the Truth of today’s Gospel and the challenges of Mother’s Day to touch our hearts
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
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