* The Following is a transcript of an oral sermon presented by Fr Matthew to his Parish
Today is known as Mothering Sunday by the church
and it is because of this verse in the epistle,
“Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all”.
Leaping off from that verse, the church centuries ago in the west and especially in Britain made the 4th Sunday in Lent “Mothering Sunday”. It was also called “Refreshment Sunday” because one of the traditions they have in England was to have a special cake on that day and the rules of Lent had laxed a bit more and you could use your eggs and things to make a cake and so on. So it was “Refreshment Sunday”. In some churches they even have different colours on Lent 4 instead of being straight violet they have a rose colour.
This is the church's mothers day and it existed long before the world's. I remember the bishop who ordained me (Bishop Bromley) used to say that the world's mothers day was invented by an American who was feeling guilty for not visiting his mum. He didn't have a lot of time for that mothers day, since this is the real mothers day “Mothering Sunday”. I think it is true that the world's mothers day is often not what it should be. It might be the one day a year some people visit their ageing mother in a nursing home for example and they don't go near them other times, maybe just Christmas and Easter if they are lucky. So it is kind of a prod for people to DO something.
A day in honour of mothers should be about more than just that day. It is a reminder to us just how important mothers are. In the epistle today Saint Paul is talking about the Jerusalem which is above. He is talking about the heavenly Jerusalem. That which is the true archetypal map after which the earthly Jerusalem is meant to be copied and so it represents the church. Especially the church in her heavenly reality and in the height of her spiritual reality. It is interesting, in 2 Timothy chapter1 verse5, Saint Paul talking to his young disciple Timothy who's become a bishop in the church he has been left in, he says: “What a rich faith has been handed down to you by your grandmother Lois to your mother Eunice then to you”. So, there Saint Paul is referring to the important role of the earthly mother who brought up her daughter in the faith who then brought up her son Timothy in the faith and he went on to become another (sort-of) apostle, becoming a bishop in his local church and Saint Paul had made him his right-hand man one time.
I will just quote to you from a pastor Bob Gass. He says: “The bible paints various portraits of mothers and while they weren't perfect each one tells a story. Moses mother broke the law to ensure his safely to teach him the faith of his people. Then there is the mother who came before Solomon who was willing to forfeit her child rather than see him harmed. James and Johns mother loved them so much she wanted them to sit on either side of Christ in his future kingdom”. Paul saw in Timothy a young man of sterling character because of the faith handed down from grandmother Lois to mother Eunice to him. The most significant thing we know about Timothy's mother is that her mum was a believer because while faith can't be inherited it can be passed on in influence of Godly parents.
A little boy forgot his lines in a Sunday school play so his mum leaned over and whispered “I am the light of the world”. The child beamed and with great feeling announced “My mother is the light of the world”. He misunderstood. She was just trying to help him out but never mind. Now, we smile but the truth is mothers DO write on the hearts of their children what the hand of time can't erase.
A fellow called Caswald said: “ it is only in later life that men gaze back and would behold how a mother hand and heart shaped their lives and destiny”. But, the question for the rest of us is: Are we properly grateful for the love and care our mothers have shown us, continuing to be there for them as long as they live? That is a problem in our culture. The problem in our culture is that many people don't feel that obligation to their mother after they leave home thinking “well, that's that done, I'm out of home now” and in later life when their mother might need them they feel “well, you know. I've got my own life now”. That is the expression you hear.
Do we continue to draw upon the true lessons of what our mothers taught us and the good examples they gave us? The 5th of the 10 commandments demands that we do this calling on us to honour our parents. This is the promise with a reward attached that Saint Paul reminds us in Ephesians6 verse2. So, honouring parents is important all through life. Similarly the book of proverbs tells us in the 1st chapter not to neglect our mothers teaching and finished in chapter 31 with a whole chapter which is wise advice from a mother to her son. The mother advises her son on things like leadership responsibility, compassion, justice and relationships in general. The scriptural portraiture of motherhood is a very dignified one indeed. It is implicitly and repeatedly used as an analogy of how the church and our lady relate to us as spiritual children in the New Testament. We heard that today in the epistle I quoted in the beginning, where the Jerusalem above (as I said) refers to the church.
Remember at the cross Jesus says to his mother: “Behold, your son” talking of the one disciple who had some courage, courage enough to be the one apostle at the cross. Then he says to that disciple, who I believe represented the disciples at that point: “Behold, your mother”.
We see a very interesting chapter in the very last book of the bible, Revelations12, which again relates to a mother: “And a great portante appeared in Heaven and a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of 12 stars. She was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth in anguish of delivery” and it goes on and talks about how there is a great dragon ready to attack the mother and child. “The dragon stood before the woman who was about to bare a child, that he might devour her child when she bought it forth. She bought forth a male child, one who is to rule all nation with a rod of iron. But her child was called up to God and to His throne”. This is a reference to Jesus because one of the scriptural phrases in the Old Testament, One of the prophesies of the messiah is that he would rule the nations with a rod of iron. In other words that He would be the true and complete ruler, and that people would owe Him total obedience. It says that He is called up to God and His throne, that refers to the ascension, “And the woman fled into the wilderness as a place prepared by God” and then it goes on and talks about war in heaven. It is interesting that just before this chapter (and of cause there were no chapter divisions when John first wrote this, we added them later) it talks about God’s temple in Heaven and how the “Arch Of The Covenant” is seen within the temple of God in Heaven and there are flashes of lightening and voices and peals of thunder. So, people have debated what this symbol of a woman represents. Clearly she represents more than one thing. We thought, she can’t be separated from Mary, this is the woman that brings forth Jesus, but neither can she be separated from the church because it says she has a crown of twelve stars and the moon under her feet, clothed in sun. These are references which remind us back in the Old Testament of some of the prophetic visions of Joseph. He saw his brothers as 12 stars and his mother and father as the sun and moon, and they bowed down to him. So, the sun and moon and the 12 stars represent Israel and in the New Testament Israel represents the church. So, we have a double reference here to our church and to Our Lady. We know that Mary herself, for a little while, had to flee into the wilderness because she fled into Egypt.
The scriptures have a high portrait of mothers. God has made the maternal instinct so strong that He compares His own care for us to the care of mothers. He almost implies that only His care is greater than that of a mother. He says in Isaiah “could a mother forget a child that nurses at her breast? Could she fail to love an infant that came from her own body?” To ask a question like that is a rhetorical question and the answer is expected to be “No” . Then He says “Even is a mother could forget, I would never forget you.” So, whatever our earthly parents are like we know that God’s love for us transcends even that of the most devoted earthly parent. “Trust in that love” is at the foundation of faith in the Gospel.
1John 4:16 “We have known and believed the love that God has for us”. We trust in God’s parental love, that’s at the foundation of our faith. We cannot in our weakness and sin love the God that is merely the just judge, or omnipotent, omniscient, all knowing, all powerful. We can’t even love that God which is all perfect goodness in our weakness and sin until we know more, until we know God is not just this high and mighty one but that He is a loving father. A God that is only the just judge, perfect goodness, the almighty, the all knowing would be too high, too terrifying in His inaccessible holiness. We could at most admire Him in the abstract as an idea, but the Living God can only joyfully be known by us fallen human beings as we encounter Him as Father. But This father has maternal aspects as well.
In Luke chapter13 we have Jesus speaking in His own name and in His Fathers name about the earthly Jerusalem. “O’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem killing the prophets and stoning those who were sent to you. How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not”. There Jesus compares Gods love (His love for people) to the love of a mother hen gathering her chicks. So, although God is “Father” there is this maternal aspect to His love.
What is the fundamental difference in the final analysis between one who has the gift of living faith and who has rejected it? Well, the one who has that gift accepts God as a merciful Father, trusts in the son as a perfect image of the Father and repents of their offences against the holy love of the Father and the Son which is revealed in the cross. That person receives the holy spirit to become what they were meant to be. A loving and beloved child of God. Those that finally reject the living faith falsely see God as cruel and hard because he reprimands their sin and so they come to experience Him exactly as their warped inwardly enclosed hearts portray Him.
I will go to Matthew 25:24-26. “He who also had receive the one talent came forward saying “Master, I knew thee that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sown, and gathering where you did not winnow: so I was afraid, and hid thy talent in the ground: here, have what is yours”. His master answered him, “you wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I did not winnow” (…and so on). This man experiences God (or the one he perceives as God) in the way he sees himself projected onto the master in the parable. That is how he experiences him because that is how he has chosen to act. If God reprimands our sin it is out of love but if we decide “No, God is cruel” then we experience Him in that way. A person in that situation cannot experience God in any other way because of what they have become, not because of any change in God.
Let none of us consider ourselves abandoned in this world - Look Up.
Have faith in Christ and know that He is of adoption.
Our salvation is more than once compared in the scriptures to adoption.
We are children of God the Father.
We are adopted in Christ the Son because we are incorporated into Him.
Rest in the knowledge that Gods heart towards us is a fathers heart.
The trials and disciplines of life are our formation,
our upbringing in grace, they are not for our destruction.
Take joy in the motherhood of the church and the Blessed Virgin,
recognising that they look after us through fellowship and prayer.
We must not forget to honour, as well, our earthly mothers
with kindness and honest gratitude and appropriate respect
whatever their imperfections.
St Paul teaches we cannot disrespect and despise our family
and claim to believe in and love God at the same time. He talks about someone who doesn’t take care of their parents or their own family and he says that they are denying their faith and are worse than infidels. It is one of the more intense condemnations that you find from Saint Paul. So, we cannot neglect and despise our own family. Part of our love for God and love for our neighbour starts with our own parents, our children, our brothers and sisters.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. †
Join us for worship and prayer at an Anglican Catholic Mass / Holy Communion each Sunday morning at 11am in the chapel of the All Saints Senior School in Victoria St Maitland NSW Australia... Happy Mothering Day