It is my assumption that we learned a lot of things from our parents, especially our mothers whom we honor today. The world would be in a great mess if we defied any of our mother’s instructions and the things they taught us. They taught us humor: "When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me." They taught us about genetics: “You’re just like your father." They taught us how to meet a challenge: Answer me when I talk to you and don’t talk back to me!” They taught us about justice: "One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you. Then you'll see what it's like." And of course, they taught us about religion: "You better pray that will come out of the carpet."
A mother usually gives three presents to her child. The first present is the heritage of our faith. We all share the same story. Our mothers drummed into our consciousness that we need to have faith in our lives, that we need to believe in a loving God, that we need to rely on a God who will comfort us in moments of trouble and hardship.
I learned a lot of things from my mother. When I was about 6 years old, it baffled me that she would stay hours after Mass saying her prayers. Now, I realized that without those prayers I would not be here today. Perhaps, her prayers were the seed. My vocation to the priesthood became the plant.
Your stories are no different. Though some of us were dragged to Church, forced to go to religion classes, reminded to always say our prayers, we are grateful as we retrospect. Thank you, Mom, for the heritage of faith.
The second present is the gift of love. There is an old cartoon strip about a man talking on the phone. We hear only his side of the conversation, which goes like this: “Hello, mother, I’ve had a terrible day. Gladys is being awful as usual. You know how she can be. Yes, mother, I remember you warned me. I remember you told me she was a vile creature who would make my life miserable. And you begged me not to marry her. You were perfectly right, mother. You want to talk to her? Okay, hang on.” With that, he looks up from the telephone and calls to his wife in the next room, “Gladys, your mother’s on the phone.”
There is a longing deep inside of us to be known as we are, with all our blemishes and insecurities, and then to be loved, with all our brokenness and sensitivities. Jesus speaks those words in the Gospel of John, “You are my friend!” though He knows us from the inside out.
The way the good Lord sees us could be the same way a mother looks at us. We are reflections of God’s love. Our hearts and our souls are intertwined with God’s yearning for us to be true and to love, though sometimes we fall and falter.
A mother’s love, just like God’s, stretches beyond the ordinary and usual and moves beyond the typical and normal. It was a mother who wrote the following: “If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place, but have not love, I am a housekeeper--not a homemaker. If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements, but have not love, my children learn cleanliness-- not godliness. Love leaves the dust in search of a child's laugh. Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window. Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk. Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys. Love is present through the trials. Love reprimands, reproves, and is responsive. Love crawls with the baby, walks with the toddler, runs with the child, and then stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood. Love is the key that opens salvation's message to a child's heart. Before I became a mother, I took glory in my house of perfection. Now I glory in God's perfection of my child. As a mother, there is much I must teach my child, but the greatest of all is love.”
The third present that our mothers gave us is the value of life. Nursing us through months of pregnancy and bringing us up through years of dependency, we learned from them what life is about.
Life is not just about existing. It is also about being and becoming. Jesus, who has given His life for our sakes, is the life. He calls us his friends, because he is asking us what He himself did: not to hold back and repress, but to offer and share our struggles and our pains, our minds and our gifts, our hearts and our souls.
Without the sharing of our true selves, there is no joy or friendship, no growing up or into a family. If we keep our minds and our gifts hidden and kept, there can be no friendship. Unless we help each other, we will never find joy because it is only when we share what we are, what we have and what we are struggling with that we grow more into a family.
There are still a lot of things we could learn from our mothers. But, the lasting thing that all of us could understand and comprehend is that when faith, love and life are shared, there is believing, living and loving in being a mother.
These are the gifts we got and are getting from our mothers. It is also the gift of motherhood.