Dearest Mother O’ Mine
By Commissioner Peter H. Chang –[Recently my mother suffered a slight heart attack from which she is recovering ever so slowly. You know, I appreciate my mother now more than ever before.]
To be a mother is first and foremost to be a vessel of grace: to love a child before the child can love back; to pour out one’s heart to a child before the child can even say “Thank you.”
“We love God because God first loved us.” Our children will one day love, only because they first were loved. If not loved, children become like those young birches we see this time of year in the woods–all bent over because the storms of winter hit them before they were ready. Should a child not be offered love or for some reason can’t accept love, that child may well end up in a mental hospital [more accurately termed by the Russians as a “hospital for the soul-sick” because the mental changes are only an effect, with the lack of love being the cause].
It’s a heavy responsibility to be a parent. But we kid ourselves when we treasure our freedom, not realizing that it is our obligations that give our lives their meaning. Children are the anchors that hold us firm to life. Chubby children hanging to our necks keep us humble and wise!
Simply having children, however, does not make mothers; nor, as I suggested, do you have to have children in order to be a mother. “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” So Jesus said. All of us are called to love each other in building each other up into all God made and meant us to be.
Let’s refine that statement. To love is surely to support and to encourage–but not necessarily to approve. Quite the contrary! If we love one another, we will help one another fight against our evil dreams. When through despair or self-pity we become dead to rapture, friends are needed to remind us that God made the rift of dawn, the reddening rose, to give us solace when life becomes rough.
So love–mother love at its best–is not always approval. Nor is it sweetness and light-hearted. Rather, love has a bitter flavor, like the distilled juice of some wild berry which makes the idea of sweetness bland and disagreeable by contrast.
But if love is not necessarily approval nor sweetness and light-heartedness, it is acceptance; always acceptance, keeping love up front no matter what. Isn’t that what we heard from the prophet Hosea? Isn’t that what the story of the Prodigal Son is about?
Here’s another distinction: to mother is not to smother. Mother love–like God’s love–provides maximum support and minimum protection. Except for small children, I’m really against protection. Protection makes cowards of everyone, which is probably why God provides so little of it! Consider again the father of the Prodigal Son. He could have protected his son; he could have kept him at home; he could have kept him from getting into trouble; but he could not have kept him filial. Without freedom, there is no love. So the father has to release the son into the vicissitudes of life, and then stand on the road, waiting and yearning with a mother’s longing for the son to return to himself and to his spiritual home.
So let us on this Mothers’ Day, with tenderness and much gratitude, recall our mothers, whether here or in eternity. Let us remember the beauty in their so nearly undefeated faces. Let us remember them at their maternal best; the way they accepted us though not approving; supported rather than protected us; loved us no matter what distress we brought them; and ponder what they taught us about this world and about God. Let us pray for grace to mother one another even as does our dear God mother us: God, the Mother of us all.