A Mothering Sunday Reflection
This Sunday is going to be the fourth Sunday in Lent, traditionally known as “Laetare Sunday”, which means Joyful Sunday, when the Church acknowledges the inevitable coming of Easter and we temporarily stop all the fasting to get a glimpse of the joy that is to come.
Mothering Sunday celebrations are also traditionally held on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This Sunday I was going to preach at my church of All Saints’ in Rome. As many of you may already know churches in Italy have been shut for over a week now, as a precaution against the Coronavirus outbreak - in fact the whole country has been put in a lockdown. This has caused moments of grief and insecurity among all of us.
This year’s Mothering Sunday is quite meaningful to me. 26th August will mark the 10th anniversary of the death of my mother. What does it mean when someone we care about has been taken away from us? How should we celebrate Mothering Sunday when all we have left of someone we loved is grief and memories.
Mothering Sunday of course is also a time for us to remember those whom we love and love us most - our mothers, mother-like figures, even grandparents or other people who gave us lots of gratuitous love without wanting anything in return. Today’s readings reflect that.
A traditional passage for Mothering Sunday from Exodus is one of my favorite ones: and the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink. That child was of course Moses. It speaks of a love so great - the love of a mother who would even deliver her most beloved fruit to the tempestuous streams of the river Nile, away from her love and care, in order to save him - a mother or mother-like figure would cut a limb off herself in order to see that child live and flourish. And then the child arrived in the Royal Palace of the Kings of Egypt: and Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother. And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the women took the child, and nursed it. And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water. Moses was safe - without ever knowing about the unconditional love of her mother. Today's reading from 1 Samuel also speaks of the unconditional love mothers and mother-like figures have for their children - it speaks of Hannah's love for her son Samuel, a love so great she wanted him to be presented directly before the Lord: Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord.
The passage from the Gospel according to John follows in this narrative. As for the Savior of Israel, the new passage speaks of the Savior of the whole world: When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. A beautiful example of Mary's love for her Son and Jesus' love for his mother. A love that repeats itself in us. God made Man, Jesus himself acknowledged the sacredness of the figure of a mother, or a mother-like figure, acknowledging that bond of love, love which comes from God and that is so powerful. Jesus asked all of us to remember and ever respect that.
This Sunday, many of us were expecting to celebrate Mothering Sunday as usual, with our mothers or mother-like figures. Many of our younger and luckier folks were thinking of that. Perhaps this very odd situation, when we are unable to get even to church, something we take for granted, should be a sign. When something so normal as church is taken away from us, how do we react to that? Not many youngsters are given the occasion to prepare for unexpected events - this might just be the sign. A sign that no matter the arguments, no matter the disagreements, no matter the business, we have to take advantage of the time we have to appreciate the love that is given to us, and to give it back - that is the greatest gift for our mothers or mother-like figures, more than any present. My thought is, if you’ve still got a mother or a mother-like figure, give her or him a ring today, and exchange in love, because that’s where God is.
This is a wonderful narrative from the Bible readings this Mothering Sunday, but of course, many of us have lost our mother, many of us have lost those who cared for us, nourished us, educated us, and raised us with streams of unconditional love. Mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, or other mother-like figures. How do we then make this a happy occasion? Jesus assures us of one thing, that he will be with us until the ends of the earth, we know that God is love, and where love is, God himself is there - we know how unchangeable that is - otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting on a pew each Sunday for over an hour. Although we may not see those whom we love and miss on a daily basis, we know that it is only a temporary phase.
We know that Lent is about expecting for the Resurrection, this Laetare Sunday, this gleam of hope in the middle of Lent, is a sign of the Easter glory that is to come, and of that Resurrection joy that will reunite us all, once again, with those whom we love. Let us cherish those memories and that love for the moment, love never ends - love broke the tomb and bursted out of it to save the world. Our mothers, and all who helped raising us up, nourishing us, and giving us lots, and lots of unconditional love. Today I will be remembering my mother, and the unconditional and unending love she gave me. I hope you do too.
In Jesus’ name,
You may find a video of this sermon here: