Dear Fellow Parishioners,
This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day. While there are many images of loving (not to mention powerful) mothers in the Old Testament, there is also the Fourth Commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother.” At the most basic level, that commandment is a call to respect an inescapable fact: Our relationship with our parents is not a peer-relationship. Our mothers (and fathers) have had an infinitely more formative effect on us than we will ever have on them, in matters of both nature and nurture. In rejecting our parents, whatever their strengths or weaknesses, we risk rejecting a substantial part of ourselves, and waging a war within ourselves.
In practical terms, parents often cannot see their children’s similarity to themselves and vice versa. How often have we seen chronic friction between parents and children not because they have too little in common, but because they are far too much alike? “You’re just like your mother!” can be fightin’ words in some situations. (And if it’s followed by, “Just WHAT do you mean by THAT?”, run for cover…).
The other function of the Fourth Commandment is to serve as a kind of intergenerational glue that keeps families, clans and societies together at three important stages of life: when parents raise their children, when those children have their own children, and when children become caregivers for their aging parents. Amid these challenges there also can be irony and humor, summed up by the frustrated Jewish mother’s threat to her mischievous child: “You should have a child like you! God will punish you!”
The Jewish mother of the New Testament, par excellence, is Our Blessed Mother. Homage to her, whether devotional or theological, has never been stronger. The whole field of Mariology has arisen and grown over the past 180 years or so, attributable in part to the Church’s teachings on Mary during that time. This devotion is also sustained in our present day because the wholesome image of a loving mother appeals to any emotionally and spiritually healthy person, of any religious affiliation, or none at all.
In my own life, I can look back with gratitude on the mothers in my life, including those who have been like mothers to me, now gone but in no way forgotten.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Fr. Bill Donahue