Sixth Sunday of Easter-Mother’s Day
6th Sunday of Easter, May 10, 2015 (Mothers’ Day)
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Today we read part of our Lord’s sermon at the Last Supper,
in which He tells us: “love one another as I love you.”
And to make it clear exactly what he’s talking about,
to remind us how he “loves you,”
He tells us:
“No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Which of course he does just a few hours later on the Cross.
Jesus’ death on the Cross is truly an amazing act of love:
no greater act of love has ever occurred in the history of the world.
God the creator of the universe, gave his whole life to us and for us.
It’s hard to imagine this.
I mean, very few of us have had someone die for us, personally.
We could look to examples of our military heroes or law enforcement officers
who have laid down their lives to protect our nation or the citizenry,
and so for us in general.
But, as wonderful as these are,
they don’t really die specifically for you or me personally.
The thing is, when our Lord tells us to love one another as he has loved us,
he doesn’t expect us to literally die for each other,
but rather, based on his ultimate example,
to lay down our lives for others, in different ways and in various degrees:
to make sacrifices for others, to give of ourselves unselfishly,
And there is one excellent example of this kind of love
that all of us can relate to:
that is, the love of mothers.
Think about it: Moms truly do lay down their lives for their children.
It begins with pregnancy:
think of all the discomfort and pains in pregnancy,
not to mention the potential risk of her overall health and even life.
Truly, she lays down her life as for 9 months,
everything in her life is about the baby
and she experiences this all in very profound bodily way.
But it goes on after that.
First of all in the pains of childbirth.
Good Lord, I don’t know how you women do that.
Then, you bring the baby home and for months you don’t get a full night of sleep,
waking up whenever the baby cries to feed, change or simply hold him.
And then as they grow, mothers have to
keep feeding, clothing, bathing and teaching them.
And then they drive them to school or maybe they homeschool them all day,
and then drive them to sports or ballet or music lessons.
Very often mothers have a job, often full-time, but remain a full-time mom,
making all sorts of career sacrifices for their kids.
And just when the kids learns to drive themselves
and need less and less of mom’s constant attention,
they leave home, abandoning their mothers.
But, again, mom lays down her life, not only accepting it,
but seeing it as a good and necessary thing for her baby to do.
The love of Moms is amazing.
And it reflects perfectly Our Lord’s command
to love one another as he has loved us,
by laying down our lives for each other.
But it also reveals something else to us.
On the Cross, Jesus’ death reveals his personal love for you and me,
but it also reveals something more universal,
a profound truth about the nature of God himself.
St. John summarizes this in 3 words in today’s second reading: “God is love.”
The love of the Cross shows us that God Himself is love.
And in a similar way all these things mothers do,
laying down their lives from our conception until death,
reveal not simply their personal love for us,
but also something about the profound meaning of motherhood itself:
Motherhood itself is, or is created to be, all about love.
And so we celebrate today not only our Moms, but motherhood itself.
Now, when I say “motherhood” here, I am specifically referring to
the naturally occurring phenomenon or institution
that extends from a woman being pregnant
through delivery and raising of children,
and everything that continues after that.
Let’s call that “natural motherhood.”
Because, of course, there are other kinds of motherhood we can speak of.
For example, there are adoptive moms and foster moms,
grandmothers, godmothers, spiritual mothers
and lots of women who are “like a mother to us”:
aunts, big sisters, teachers, nuns, etc.
And all of these can be wonderful and beautiful ways women really share
in the gift of motherhood.
In fact some of these mothers are much better at laying down their lives
than are some “natural mothers.”
But the thing is, all of these other kinds of motherhood
have meaning, shape and dignity because they flow from or emulate
the great phenomenon of “natural motherhood,”
and it’s potential written
in the body and soul of every woman.
It think most mothers would agree:
there is something extraordinary about natural motherhood,
including all the things that happen to a mother’s body,
before and after birth, that bind her to her child.
And, again, most mothers would agree,
that for any woman to be compared to or called “mother”
is a profound honor,
in large part because of the great dignity of natural motherhood.
And so the preservation and protection of natural motherhood
is essential to the existence and goodness of all forms of motherhood,
and so for the good of all children;
not just for little children,
but so those little children will grow up to be good adults.
In other words, natural motherhood is essential for the wellbeing of society.
But if that is true, and it is, then why do we allow so many people
to attack it and demean it nowadays?
Think about all the ways that motherhood is under assault today.
Consider some of the commonly discussed so called “social issues” of our day,
and how they impact motherhood.
The most obvious of these is the promotion of abortion,
which basically turns a mother from her baby’s strongest protector
to her baby’s enemy.
But also consider the many ways contraception demeans motherhood.
The most obvious is that the very purpose of contraception
is to prevent motherhood.
Building on this, powerful ideologues tell us that
women should use contraception to free themselves from,
or at least lessen, the “burden of motherhood.”
Related to this, think of how moms with more than 2 kids are so often demeaned:
how many times have mothers with larger families told me
about the insults they receive from strangers,
and even family members.
Or consider how the government is encroaching
into how mothers exercise their motherhood.
Think about how public (government) schools
are trying to replace mothers, and fathers,
as first teachers of values and morality.
In other words, how government officials think they know what love is
better than the woman who has lovingly sacrificed everything
for her children.
I think of how just this last week the Fairfax Public School Board
handled the obscure issue of so called “transgendered” people:
the question of whether or not
a little boy who says he thinks he’s girl
should be allowed to shower with our little girls.
The board, the government, was initially going to decide the issue
without even consulting moms and dads.
And even when hundreds of moms and dads found out and objected,
they were completely ignored.
The government knows better.
“Who are you,” they said; “you’re only a mother.”
Or consider how so many government policies encourage mothers not to marry,
not to have a loving and committed husband for life
who lays down his life to help her and her children.
Or how many programs encourage mothers not to stay home with their children,
or second guess the most basic of parental decisions,
especially with regard to discipline.
And think about the way the new developments in medicine
have been used to demean motherhood.
For example, so called “surrogate motherhood,”
where one woman carries and births another woman’s genetic child.
How does that twist and mangle the idea of gift and importance
of natural motherhood when a woman essentially rents or lends her body
and then gives away the baby she has carried?
What does that do to our understanding of motherhood
—which woman is the mother?
Or consider the subtle but powerful threat
that same-sex marriage and adoption presents.
The equating of the attempted marriage of two men
with the marriage of a man and woman,
implies that women bring nothing special or unique
to the family or to a man.
This is amplified in same-sex adoption, especially by two males,
which argues that two male “parents” are capable of providing children
the very same “good” upbringing a female and male couple/parent do.
In short: there is nothing special, necessary, natural, or more preferred
about having a mother, than having a second father:
doesn’t that mean that mothers simply don’t matter.
But even setting all that aside: if courts and legislatures
can redefine the meaning of marriage,
and so ignore completely the obvious definitions
that the complementary male and female bodies
have spoken to every society as far back as we can see,
they can also redefine the very naturally obvious meaning of motherhood,
and the very natural rights of mothers over their children.
They could, for example, force them to go to schools their mothers object to.
Or they could take children away from mothers
if they think they can find a better way to raise the children,
Or they could force mothers to abort their babies
if the government decides they should.
Don’t scoff: it’s already happening in Communist China.
How far are we away from it in America, and Fairfax County?
If we continue this way, motherhood will very soon have no meaning in itself,
and motherhood would be virtually destroyed.
And without mothers laying down their lives for their children
and teaching them how to love,
love itself—the true love of self-sacrifice and selfless giving—
will disappear from society.
And society will fall apart.
Now, I say all this not to make a political point, and not to depress you.
I say all this only to remind you what a great gift mothers and motherhood are,
and how mothers must be loved, honored and cherished,
and how motherhood itself, beginning with natural motherhood,
must be defended and protected.
Jesus tells us: “Love one another as I love you.”
Not many people love us like Christ does.
But in His mercy He has given us the gift of motherhood and our own mothers
to show us how it’s done.
As we continue with this holy Mass, let us remember our Lord’s words:
“there is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
And in a few moments,
as I bow over the bread on the altar and speak the words of Jesus:
“This is my Body, which will be given up for you.”
we will come face to face with the living body of our Crucified Lord,
who has laid down his life out of love for us.
As we then kneel before him giving thanks for this gift of his great love,
let us also thank him for the unique way
he has taught us to love as he loves, through the love of mothers.
And let us commend to his grace and love our own moms, and all moms.
And let us pray that, with the grace of this sacrament of love,
we may love and cherish our moms as we should,
and honor and defend the precious gift of love that is motherhood itself.