Before all else I wish a Happy Mother's Day to all the moms in our congregation. At the same time I want to assure you that as I offer this Mass I am remembering not only my own mom who lives on Camano but all our mothers, whether living or deceased. We remember our moms because we love them, we're grateful for the life we received thru them, but also in fulfillment of one of the most important commandments God gave us:
God didn't say: Honor your father and mother if they are perfect parents. Or--Honor your father and mother till you turn eighteen. Or--Honor your father and mother until they part from this life. No he said it simple and straight out: Honor your father and your mother.
The readings this Sunday give us some good reasons for doing that. Let's start with that second reading from the book of Revelation. Revelation is the last book of the Bible and it sums up a theme we find in almost every other book: the divine nuptials. In the Old Testament God took as his bride Israel. In the New Testament Jesus also takes a bride. The spouse of Jesus, as we see so clearly in the book of Revelation, is the Church which he founded.
Some people say, "I can go directly to Jesus. I don't need all this church stuff." Well, the Church is the bride of Jesus. I cannot say to someone, "I want to be your friend. But don't ask me to like your spouse. I can accept you, but I want nothing to do with her." Impossible. The two have become one. The same with Jesus. If we love Jesus we must love his spouse the Church--in all her humanity.
This is an important reason for honoring your father and your mother. The union between them, the union God used to create you, is in some way a sign of the union between Jesus and his Church. In fact according to the Bible it is the greatest sign. That's why in the Catholic Church matrimony is considered one of the seven sacrament. That is why we should pray for holy marriages.
The Jesuit priest, Fr. Chuck Gallagher, founder of Marriage Encounter in this country has said that the crisis the church is facing is not a priest shortage. The real crisis is a marriage shortage. It's true we don't have enough priests, but perhaps even more we need holy marriages. If couples could just have a glimpse of what it means for them to reflect the union of Jesus and his Church, think about what the impact this would have. If married couples understood their vocation, our children would not be far behind.
That fact that the love of husband and wife mirrors the love of Christ and the Church is a deep reason for honoring our fathers and our mothers. In the Gospel we see the highest motive. Jesus says to his disciples, Love one another as I have loved you. Jesus spoke those words at the last supper, the nite before he died. For Jesus love meant surrender to his Father's will. Giving up control and placing it in his Father's hands. Not my will but your will be done.
The great human act of surrender is motherhood. Motherhood begins not when the child is born, nor at some arbitrary point in the pregnancy like when the baby kicks or at implantation. Motherhood begins at the precise moment when the child is conceived. In fact we now know biologically that the tiny being starts sending out chemical signals which change the mom physically, emotionally and spiritually. The baby in fact controls the pregancy; the mother surrenders control over her body, her life because there is a new human life inside her. Sometimes we hear talk about a woman's rights in this area. I'd like to clarify something this Sunday. This may startle, even upset some, but it comes right from our Catechism.
"In this area (procreation) only the child possesses genuine rights." Then the Catechism enumerates the two basic rights: "The right to be the fruit of the specific act of conjugal love of his parents." In other words: no artificial insemination, no in vitro fertilization. I know this is difficult for many of our couples who are facing infertility problems. They have a difficult cross to bear and the Catechism addresses a specific word of compassion to them. But they also must surrender control to do the Father's will.
The second right of the child is also a difficult one for many to acknowledge: "the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception." No abortion. No morning after pill. (#2378) I will be saying more at the end of Mass about a special Mass for the unborn next Saturday and prayer service at a Seattle abortion clinic.
What Jesus is saying to us here, thru the Catechism, is that at the instant of conception the mother surrenders her rights because of the greater rights of the new person, created by God. That's a paradigm for all human love. We know well that when people start talking about "my rights" love has pretty much gone out the window. It's sad to see people clinging to their rights like a dog to a bone. The only way we can break out of that is by imitating Jesus. "Love one another as I have loved you."
Now don't get me wrong. There is a legitimate place for fighting for ones rights --and those of others. For example if a woman is living in an abusive relationship which dangerous for her and her children, I'd do everything I could to make sure they have some protection. But rights in themselves are not what love is about. There's a time for putting up fences, but only so we can open doors. In a sense the new mother opens doors to a guest who is totally unpredictable. All you parents know that each of your children was given to you with his own little personality--and you had to make the best of it, like a house guest who simply showed up.
Motherhood--and fatherhood--is that kind of surrender. I would like to conclude with the greatest example of motherhood we have. I'm talking of course about the Blessed Virgin Mary who Jesus gave us as our common mother. I saw a beautiful image of her in our neighboring parish. As you know last summer Holy Rosary was badly damaged in a fire. Father Sarkies has been working all this year on the restoration project. On May 31 the church will be rededicated. They have a new painting on the back wall of the sanctuary. It shows the Risen Jesus above adored by two very powerful angels. On one side St. John holding the Gospel book. On the other Mary holding the Church in her hands, lifting it up to Jesus. I remarked to Father Sarkies who is of Lebanese descent. "My, St. John and Our Lady look very Lebanese!" He said, "Yes," but not out of some chauvinism. Nor is it because Mary probably looked Arabic than Caucasiann. What Fr. Sarkies wanted was for the Virgin Mary to be depicted as the strong woman she is. She made a total act of humble surrender. But from that surrender she receives tremendous strength to help her children.
I encourage you to place yourself in her motherly arms. Last Sunday after the 12:30 Mass I was presenting some infants to Mary. What I do is after saying a prayer with the parents, hold the child up before the image of Mary. It happened that as I was doing this two young women were also kneeling there. When I finished, they asked what I was doing. I told them and they said they would like be presented as children of Mary. Of course I was not able to lift them up, but I placed my hands on their shoulder and made a prayer of offering. I would like to offer all of you this Sunday as sons and daughters of Mary. When I lift up the host at the time of consecration, my desire to to present all of you to the Virgin Mary. She is the mother of us all. Honor your father and your mother. May you have a beautiful Mother's Day.
Catholic Teaching on In Vitro Fertilization
See also: An Eternally Unbridgeable Chasm
The Fiery Furnace
Jesus Teaching Concerning Heaven
Some Good News on Teen Pregnancy and Abortion
Hitler's Pope: Comic Book Approach to Church History
He Approached the Victim: "It's much more likely one of your relatives will lose his life by surgical abortion than by heart attack."
Germaine Greer on Birth Control
Human Cloning: A Catholic Perspective (How the Unthinkable Became Inevitable)
Boston Globe's Misleading Article on Catholic Church
Deflating Darwin's Dangerous Idea
Stephen Jay Gould: Gorbachev of Darwinism?
Test Tube Offspring Want to Know Father
Erickson vs. Bartell Drugs
Call No Man Father
What is Original Sin of Sex?
Bicentennial Man (Hidden Assumptions)
Bogus Knights of Columbus Oath
Ossuary of James, Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus