Happy Mothers Day! And I hope each of you mothers will receive happy reminders of how much your children appreciate you. But I heard of a woman who received a Mother's Day e-mail in which her daughter said her life had been miserable because her mother had treated her so badly.
The fifth of the ten commandments says "Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12). Obviously this woman's daughter thought there was no way she could honor her mother. These days many young people say their parents were ignorant, controlling, unfair, just using their children for their own pleasure. And we cannot deny that in some cases parents have abused their children, and failed to give them the love they thought they deserved.
What do you do if you feel your mother was less than perfect in some ways, and you find it hard to honor her?
It is good to begin with our genes. They are what made us what we are. Every gene in our body came from our mother, and she spliced in the genes from our father. That shaped the muscles of our face and body. We also received the heart that keeps pumping blood through our lungs. Our mother gave us the wonderful gift of eyes to see, and ears to hear, and a tongue to talk to others.
We begin with what our parents gave us. Which means that people who refuse to honor their mother are rejecting themselves.
Secondly, we received the sense of being valued as persons. Your mother talked to you, and taught you your mother tongue. She gave you her milk, cooked your food, clothed you for school, and she probably prayed for you. Even if you did not like all that your parents did or failed to do, it was your upbringing that gave you a sense of your own identity. "I am a person, and I matter. Even if I was deprived of what I think I deserved, my childhood gave me the foundation for what I am now."
However happy or unhappy we were as children, we were given the opportunity to hear God's invitation. "You are important to me. Your human family was only a preparation for a few years. I want you to be born again into my eternal family."
Thirdly, from the experiences of our human family we have a vision of what a perfect family should be like. Children who were badly treated know what they would like their own children to enjoy. That means that either way we are prepared for the vision of the heaven that God has in mind for us. And the vision is of being perfected in the love which our heart longs for.
Jesus took birth from the womb of a human mother. And since none of us is perfect, Mary and Joseph would have had their faults. When Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, and his parents came to look for him, "and his mother said to him, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." Jesus could have been tempted to despise them for failing to understand what he was called to do. But we read that at the age of twelve he honored his parents and "went down with them, and was obedient to them" (Luke 2:50). Till the age of thirty Jesus continued living in his own family and worked in their carpentry business. Then he began teaching about God's kind of love, and inviting people to move from what their parents gave them to enjoy the perfect love of heaven.
That explains the words of the Gospel we read today. "I give you a new
commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also
should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another." It is in the new family of the disciples
of Jesus that we can appreciate fully what our mother prepared us to be.
That does not lessen our love for our mother and the family she gave us,
but rather it enables us to see its eternal meaning in the love of God.