‘Who is my mother?’ asked Jesus when he was with the crowds and a messenger told him that his family had come to see him. He meant that we are all his family. On Mothering Sunday, we celebrate mothering in many forms.
In our old testament reading Moses had 3 ‘mothers’: his biological mother, his older sister Miriam (a very clever girl whose wit saved his life) and his adoptive mother (a princess).
In our new testament reading Jesus, from the cross, entrusts his mother and his beloved disciple to care for each other. Jesus, in agony of crucifixion, shows concern for Mary. Self-Sacrifice is a quality associated with the best of mothering. ‘As a mother comforts her child so I will comfort you’ (Isaiah 66:13).
Jesus likened himself to motherhood when he wept over humanity. Jesus said, ‘I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing’. A mother hen protects her brood of vulnerable little chicks from the danger of predators, safely tucked under her wings.
St. Anselm (Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093-1109) wrote a prayer on this: ‘Christ, my mother, you gather your chicks under your wings: this dead chick of yours puts himself under your wings. For by your gentleness the badly frightened are comforted, by your sweet smell the despairing are revived, your warmth gives life to the dead, your touch justifies sinners.’
Julian of Norwich (often called Mother Julian) speaks of Jesus as our true mother, who is all love, bears us into joy and endless living. A mother feeds her child with her milk but Jesus feeds us with himself in the Eucharist.
If a mother pelican cannot find food for her young, she strikes at her breast with her beak until blood flows, with which she nourishes her chicks. This image, often seen in churches, shows the self-sacrificial love of Jesus on the cross.
Mary suffered when she gave birth in a stable far from home, when Herod wanted to kill her baby, when she was a refugee in Egypt and later when she watched her son being crucified. By then she was probably a widow and the words of Simeon echoed, ‘sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart’.
From the cross Jesus said to his mother, ‘Here is your son.’ Then to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother’. Something very special happened at the foot of the cross. A new family was formed. Not a biological family but a Church Family. Our mothers may forsake us, but God never will. We do not know for sure who the beloved disciple was. Could it be us? As we celebrate Mothering Sunday, let us above all, see that we love one another.
Angela Stewart, Lay Minister