When my mother was born, my grandmother was singing, “You are my sunshine.” That’s how my grandmother told the story anyways, and it’s lovely. It reminds me of God’s own assessment of all of creation in Genesis: “It is good… it is good… it is very good” (cf. Genesis 1). It also reminds me of the baptism of Jesus, when the Father’s voice is heard from the heavens proclaiming, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
On Mother’s Day, I think of the joy of so many women who delight in their “sunshine” and their “beloved,” especially, of course, my own mother and my sisters-in-law. Whether through birth or adoption or simply stepping in to care for children when needed, mothers are indeed a reflection of God’s Love in our midst. I am grateful for all of you. Our world is better because of the sacrifices you make to create a home and a healthy upbringing for so many children (even adult children!)
I also think about those women who have lost children, sometimes in the womb through the tragedy of a miscarriage or the now regretted choice of an abortion; sometimes later because of illnesses, accidents, or some other tragedy to which we are all-too vulnerable. Mother’s Day may be a time of private and profound grief. It may be the same for those whose mothers have gone home to God. Our faith in the resurrection does not take away the sorrow and the pain of loss. For those whose own mothers did not reflect God’s love, who abused or abandoned them, this might also be a particularly difficult day. And for women who long to be mothers but for whom that hasn’t happened, there may be a sense of loss and longing as well. The brokenness of the world affects all of us in different ways. For all who experience Mother’s Day without great joy, my heart is with you too. You are equally the beloved of God, and your own suffering and sacrifices, sometimes known to you and God alone, are joined to the Cross of Christ to give life to the world. I hope there is some comfort in knowing that, in holding onto it in faith and hope.
Mary is often called the Theotόkos, which we translate as The Mother of God. At the Council of Ephesus in 431, the bishops decided on this term in the midst of a controversy. On one side, there were those who believed Mary should be called only the Christotόkos, that is, The Mother of Christ. This had little to do with Mary, actually. The debates were about the nature of Christ. To affirm Mary as the Mother of God, and not merely the Mother of Christ, was to affirm that Jesus was indeed the Incarnate God from the first moment of his conception. To call her the Mother of God (or “The God-bearer” to be more accurate, though the Greek was translated into Latin as Mater Dei, Mother of God) is really to affirm a central teaching about Christ, that he is “true God and true man,” “fully human and fully divine.”
If the motherhood of Mary is ultimately about Christ, then so too is every form of motherhood. In fact, every vocation from motherhood and fatherhood, to celibate priesthood and religious life, to the single life and widowhood, is only a vocation at all if it is grounded in Christ and oriented to Christ. In this sense, Mother’s Day is one particular day for celebrating the work of Christ in the world. It is a celebration of vocation!
Jesus prayed “that they may share my joy completely.” In whatever vocation we find ourselves, in whatever work Christ has committed to us, we are invited into the fullness of Christ’s own joy. It is not without sacrifice and suffering—after all, we follow the One who went to the Cross and told us to take up our crosses daily and follow him (Luke 9:23). Jesus prayed for us, acknowledging that “the world hated them because they do not belong to the world.” Nonetheless, our vocation—lives and work united to the life and mission of Christ as Christ calls us uniquely into discipleship—will bring the deep joy that comes from living in love.
Whether a mother or a father, whether single or widowed, whether suffering loss or longing, whether feeling loved or feeling lonely, we know the wisdom of St. Teresa of Avila: “All things are passing; God only is changeless.” As the wheel of fortune goes around, we may find ourselves on top of the world, or on the ride up, or on the ride down, or at the very bottom. The best place to be, as Bishop Barron reminds us, is in the center. The center is God, who does not change. “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” The center is Love. No matter where we find ourselves in life, no matter what we have been through, no matter where the wheel of fortune is bringing us, we exist in the Center. With The Little Flower, we exclaim: “O Jesus, my Love, at last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love!”
Photo credit for the pregnant woman: https://stocksnap.io/author/joshwillink