A Mothering Sunday reflection

13 03 2010


Once, a little child started to paint a picture. It looked beautiful – bright colours, swooshing lines, thick paint. The teacher said, what are you painting? The child said, ‘a picture of God’.

Oh, no one knows what God looks like, said the teacher.

Well they will when I’ve finished, said the child.

Sometimes, when we start something, we don’t always know where it will end up. When we follow someone, we don’t always know where we’re going.

The words that old Simeon said to Mary when Jesus was presented in the Temple must have resonated deep in her heart as she stood at the foot of the cross. ‘A sword will pierce your own heart too.’ Who would have thought that the wood of the manger would have been exchanged for the wood of the cross: had she realised where all this was heading, would she have followed, I wonder? Would you or I?

Mary, in time, no doubt knew in her heart that many people like you and me would try to follow in her son’s footsteps. The journey brought her to the cross, as we hear in our gospel reading today, where Jesus told his best friend, John, that Mary would be like a mother to him too. And Jesus then told his mother that John would now be like a son to her. It is a moment of entrusting. Jesus asks those who follow him to look after each other as family. And it’s not always easy: it’s not easy because even God’s family has its fair share of Judases and Peters – like every family, church needs discipline and order – for it is out of that order that the bonds of love and stability can grow for those who chose to allow them to. But we know how difficult that discipline and order can be to find and maintain – both in our families and our churches.

I have an older sister who liked to boss me around when I was little. I’d say to her, ‘You’re not my mother!’ you can’t tell me what to do.” But she felt responsibility, and she often spent time rehearsing her speech for our mum about what problems I gave her while mum was out.

We are all responsible for one another, especially in this family we call ‘The Church.’ We are to mother each other, and to allow others to mother us too – a real family, not only on this mothering Sunday, but every day…and let me tell you, it’s hard work!

The footprints in church today remind us that when we begin our Christian faith when we are baptised, the journey brings us to cross-like moments, painful moments, heartbreak, anger and pain. It’s moments like that when we need our faith in Jesus, to trust him to be with us, and to provide for our every need. He gives us to each other…behold your mother, behold, your son.

As we remember that entrusting we thank God for those who care for us and those who are given to us to care for.  Family exists where we make it – it is not necessarily a given – not something that comes about just by birth, or blood, or tradition. Family means work, it should mean support and love and mutuality – but it also means effort, discipline and boundaries. Jesus recognized that, and so should we – both in the relationships we have with our kin, and in the supportive, forgiving, loving relationships that should characterize our Church life.

If mothering were only done by mothers, it would be very hard indeed to ensure that everyone received the nurturing, protection, love, sacrifice, guidance that we need to become the people we are meant to be. As a church community, we are called into a role of mothering that sometimes might need to be just as desperate, fierce, loyal, grieving as the mother in today’s readings and in the motherly experience of so many.

On the cross, God’s love is nailed firmly to the world so as never to let it go. Is our love for the world as firmly fixed as this? Are we this passionate about nurturing the world into becoming the place that God created it to be? A truly parental love is one that would give anything and everything for the child. This is the love of God that we see on the cross, but this is also the love that we are called to have for one another, and which the Church is called to have for the world. When we love like that, we make our Mothering-God visible in the world.

Jesus made that Mothering God visible in his day, and it’s a way you and I can follow too, if we really want to. But no one forces us. Jesus certainly doesn’t. Those who don’t want to live in the tender, motherly love of God and each other, are not to be condemned; rather, they are given every opportunity to find the right path, and the time to make the choice. Today, that choice is ours again. What will you choose? God’s waiting to hear from you, once again, on this day of motherly love. How will you respond?



One response

13 03 2010

Thankyou,enjoyed the read and given me food for thought. Hope it goes well when you deliver it tomorrow. xx

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