TEXT: 6th Sunday of Easter, May 14, 2023

May 14, 2023 Father De Celles Homily

6th Sunday of Easter

May 14, 2023

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

The Easter Season is a season that fundamentally celebrates

         the ineffable love of God

         made manifest in the Cross and Resurrection.

At the same time, it is a season when we remember

         that the Cross and Resurrection are supposed to have an effect in our lives,

         as we love Him in return,

         and then come to love one another as He has loved us.

And so, we read in today’s gospel, from John’s account of the

         the night before the Paschal Mystery began, at the Last Supper:

         “Whoever has My commandments and observes them

         is the one who loves Me.

         And whoever loves Me will be loved by My Father,

         and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

But while loving comes natural to man, we’re still really not very good at it.

In fact, loving is something that we not only have to work at,

         it’s also something we need to learn about, and learn how to do.

On this Mother’s Day, we remember that

         one very important way that we come to learn about love,

                  what it is and actually how to love,

         is by God’s revelation of love—His love–through our mothers.

In the book of Genesis, we find that

         God created man as male and female in His own image,

         immediately commanding them: “Be fruitful and multiply”:

         to have children.

So, we can say that spousal love and parental love–paternal and maternal

         –are created by God to be images and instruments of His love in this world.

So, Motherhood is a gift which is, in and of itself, rooted in God’s love.

And it is in this gift,

         that tiny babies are called to see the love of God for the first time

         as they first gaze on their mother’s smile, or nurse at her breast.

It is the awesome vocation of love at the heart of every woman

         –it’s part of what it means to be a woman

                  in God’s omniscient and perfect plan.

Now, I say at the heart of every woman,

         and yet we all know many great women

         who don’t seem to follow that vocation.

Women like the many great virgin saints or nuns,

         or the many wonderful single and married women we know

                  who have no children.

But, while motherhood is very much a physical gift, it also is a spiritual gift.

In fact, since it’s rooted in the love of God,

         we can say that it’s essentially spiritual.

And so, we find this spiritual motherhood in the example of the great virgin saints:

         St. Teresa of Ávila is still called “Mother” by the Carmelites

         and St. Catherine of Siena was called “mamma” by her followers;

         and that tiny nun Catholics now call St. Theresa of Calcutta,

                  but who the whole world still remembers as “Mother Theresa.”

But even if she’s not called to the religious life, 

         a woman can still be a spiritual mother to those in need of God’s love

         expressed and given in the way that only a loving mother can give it.

But the spiritual aspect of motherhood

         is also an integral part of the motherhood of our natural physical mothers

                  –our moms.

So, moms are called not only to give physical life to their children,

         and then to feed them physical food

         and to teach them how to live in the physical world.

They’re more fundamentally called to give spiritual life to their children:

         to bring them into the fullness of God’s life

                  by having them baptized into Christ’s Church,

                  by feeding them with spiritual food,

                  by teaching them how to live as Christians in the world:

                           by bringing them up to

                                    “loves one another as [Jesus] has loved [us].

But notice, there’s no conflict

         between a woman’s physical and spiritual motherhoods,

         rather the two are intimately connected:

                  the spiritual life is lived in the physical world.

This is made very concrete to us in the life of the perfect Mother

         –the Blessed Mother of Our Lord, the Virgin Mary.

When a woman in the crowd shouts to Jesus,

         “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breast that fed You”

                  Jesus responded: 

                  “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” 

With these words Jesus recognized that Mary 

         is his mother in both body and in spirit.

His words and the words of the woman in the crowd

         echo the words of St. Elizabeth

         when Mary came to her pregnant with Our Lord:

                  “Blessed are you among women,

                           and blessed is the fruit of your womb!…

                           And Blessed is she who believed

                                    that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.”

Mary became the physical mother of Jesus

         because she believed in the word of God spoken to her by an angel:

                  before she became His physical mother,

                           she became His mother in faith,

                                    or His spiritual mother.

In a very real sense,

         she is the first to fulfill the command of Jesus, and so teaches us to fulfill it:

                  “Whoever loves Me will keep My word,

                           and My Father will love him.”


But all this sometimes seems completely lost in our secular society,

         and Christians cannot fall into

         the world’s impoverished understanding of motherhood.

To some, the physical and spiritual maternal aspect

         inherent and at the heart of womanhood,

         is so disrespected, demeaned, and despised,

         that they actually argue that a man can be a mother,

         and they even refuse to call an actual expectant mother a “mother,”

                  but merely a “pregnant person.”

To some in the world–men and women alike—

         motherhood has become not a matter of receiving a free divine gift,

         but of demanding an inalienable right.

Not so much a generous longing to share one’s life, 

         but as a matter of a selfish desire to possess another’s life.

To many, its not so much important

         to joyfully and freely choose to accept this wonderful vocation from God,

         as it is more important to retain an absolute “freedom of choice” to reject it.

Not so much a matter of constant loving openness to the conception of new life,

         as a matter of “protecting” oneself against conception.

And to many, especially irresponsible fathers and ungrateful children,

         mothers are not persons cherished as a fountain of God’s love,

         but objects to be used and abused as victims of the selfishness of others.

To many in our modern world where human “worth” is measured by

                  the money you earn, or the successful career you have,

         the Christian understanding of motherhood

         seems a useless, meaningless trap

                  or the waste of a perfectly good female life.

Mothers are ridiculed and belittled just because they want to be mothers.

Now, let me be clear:

         I’m not saying women, or mothers in particular,

         shouldn’t work outside of the home:

                  women are just as smart and talented as men,

                  and make important and essential contributions

                  in the public and private employment sector.

And I know that many young mothers have to work for one reason or another,

         sometimes because of financial need,

         sometimes because of the importance of their skills to society.

But how many times have I had mothers admit to me

         that they would like to stay at home with their young children,

         but had decided to return to the workplace

         because they had been made to feel stupid and lazy

                  by their friends and family: even by their husbands?

How sad, in a world where our children are killing each other in school,

         where strangers teach them that sex and drugs

         are fun and inevitable for them.

What job could be more important, what career could be more successful

         than a mother raising lots of wonderful, healthy and HOLY kids:

         teaching them how to live and love like Christ?

This is the state of the world today: but it can never be this way for us.

Because as Jesus tells us, we are called to be in the world,

         but not of the world.

We are called to love one another, as He has loved us:

         to sacrifice as He did, to give of ourselves completely,

         as He did on the Cross, out of love for us and to give us life.

This is the true love of mothers: sacrificial love that gives life.

The love of spiritual mothers, like the teachers we had in school

         —maybe the nuns some of us had—

         who went the extra yard for us,

         sacrificing their own time and even their own family life.

And the love of our actual physical mothers—“mom’s”:

         the sacrifice of carrying us for nine months in their wombs to give us life,

         and the long nights staying up with us when we were sick;

         the sacrifice of giving up a rewarding career in the world

                  to be with us at home,

                  or the sacrifice of going to work in the world

                           to provide for our worldly necessities.

This is the love that makes this vocation such a special calling:

         a calling that deserves our highest respect and even reverence;

         a vocation that calls us to love her in return,

         and love others as she has taught us, in imitation of Christ.

Today, on this Mother’s Day, all of us thank God for the gift of motherhood,

         especially for our mothers.

Today, each of us is called out of a world, so ignorant of God’s love,

          to discover the depths of His love in the love of mothers.

Because it’s in this love, reflected in the loving smile of our mothers,

         that a child, whether a tiny baby or a grown-up adult,

         first learns to love others as God created us to.

And in this, the plan of Jesus Christ

         —the plan He had from the beginning of Creation,

                  and brought to fruition on the Cross and in the Resurrection—

          may begin to be lived out in the world,

that we might accept His love and love Him in return.