Today I remember . . . .
I remember the smell of her perfume, the Doublemint Gum she carried in her purse, the sound of her heels on the kitchen floor long after we had all gone to bed. I remember her soprano voice embarrassing me at church and the look in my father’ s eyes whenever she sat in his lap. I remember the tissue paper she wrapped around every neatly folded towel in the linen closet and the delicate purple stationary she used to write me letters at summer camp. I remember the way my spirits soared when she was proud of me and the way my heart sank when I disappointed her. I remember the brave smile on her face every morning as she buckled up the braces on my legs that I wore for years. I remember how her screeching cheers always distracted me during my wrestling matches and how paranoid I thought she was to check the stove three of four times every night until one night years later I found myself doing the same thing. I remember the day she accidentally threw a piece of that Doublemint Gum into my hair and the pair of scissors she used to cut it out. I remember the glee with which she served me and my groggy college friends creamed chipped beef on Saturday mornings whenever we had been out on a long Friday night. I remember her laughter, her tears, her anger and her embrace. I remember that she prays for me everyday and that she relishes my every phone call no matter how brief. I am who I am because of her and I remember.
Today is Mother’ s Day, the day when our culture celebrates what is best about Moms and mothering. Many of us will leave church this afternoon to spend time celebrating with the women in our lives who have mothered us or mothered those we love. But I recognize that this is not an easy day or a special day for everyone. For some of us it is a day that is bittersweet if not painful. For those who have lost a child or who have been unable to have children and for those whose mothers were far from ideal this day can be difficult and I acknowledge their struggle. But I think mothering at its best is reflective of the love offered by our God. It is a reflection of all that we can expect of God, both in this life and in the next. It is love without strings attached, love without bounds, love offered to us in spite of how unlovable we sometimes are. And even those among us who had mothers who were less than ideal more than likely had someone in their lives who offered them this ideal motherly love, this divine love that says I love you for no reason other than the fact that you exist. Today we celebrate that special mother love.
There is an old story about a young mother who was making her way across the hills of South Wales carrying her tiny infant in her arms when she was overtaken by a blinding snow storm. She never reached her destination and when the blizzard subsided her body was found by searchers beneath a mound of snow. But her rescuers discovered that before her death this mother had taken off all her outer clothing and wrapped it around her child. When they uncovered this baby to their great surprise and joy they found that he was alive and well. She had mounded her body over his and given her life for her child. Years later that child, David Lloyd George became prime minister of Great Britain and one of England’ s greatest statesmen.1
In our Gospel for this morning Jesus shows us some of this motherly brand of love. Jesus is about to be betrayed and he takes some time to pray to God concerning his followers. His rather dumb, imperfect disciples who have so often fallen short of his expectations, who have argued among themselves about earthly power, who will deny him in his time of need, who will flee from him as he is arrested Jesus prays for these very men and women the way a mother might pray for her children. He worries about their safety, he worries about their future, and he worries about their ability to carry on after he has gone. All these things and more he lifts up in prayer to his heavenly father. We see in this prayer his concern not just for himself but for those he will leave behind and their wellbeing. Jesus knows that his time with them will be short and yet there is so much work they must carry on after he has gone. But Jesus also knows that by his very death he will give them the greatest gift he can the gift of himself.
Not all of us had biological mothers who were the perfect ideal. Not all women will have the chance to mother their biological children. But all of us had someone in our lives who shared with us this motherly love as exemplified in the love of Christ a grandmother, an aunt, a teacher, a friend. And whether we are male or female, have children of our own or don’ t, all of us have it within ourselves to offer this same self sacrificing motherly love to others. In fact to love someone else fully, deeply, unselfishly, and without strings attached is the greatest thing we can do in life because it is the one thing that makes us like God.
And so today is for all the mothers who drove carpool 185 times this year and watched 65 sporting events in the heat and the cold and the rain. Today is for all the mothers who have sat up all night with sick children in their arms. Today is for all the mothers in Iraq and Afghanistan who fled in the night and can’t find their children. Today is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they’ll never see and the mothers who took those babies and gave them homes. Today is for the mothers of the victims of gang violence, and the mothers of the gangsters who did that violence. Today is for mothers everywhere who have ever lost a child God bless them all. Today is for the mothers who make cookies and sew clothes – and all the mothers who don’ t. Today is for all the mothers who show up at work with spit-up in their hair and milk stains on their shirts and diapers in their lunch bags. Today is for all the mothers who teach their sons to cook and their daughters to sink a jump shot. Today is for young mothers stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation and mature mothers learning to let go of their grown children. For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers, single mothers and married mothers, mothers with money, mothers without.
What makes a good mother anyway? Is it patience, compassion, a loud voice? The ability to nurse a baby, cook dinner, and sew a button on a shirt, all at the same time?’ 2 Or is it heart? That ability to love so much that you ache all over. The willingness to sacrifice everything you have to ensure the wellbeing of another. The overwhelming desire from deep inside that tells you nothing can give you as much joy as bringing joy to the one you love. Today is for all those who have mothered us and for all the mothering love we have been called to share with others. This is for you all.
There is an old Spanish proverb that says An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest. You’ ve heard enough from this priest. Let’ s go honor those mothers. Amen.
1 James S. Hewett.
2 Adapted from a piece by, Cindy Lange-Kubick, Columnist, Lincoln Journal Star, Lincoln, Nebraska USA, 1999.