Homily for the 4th Sunday of Easter, Year A 2014
I would like to be a little frivolous this morning in talking about the readings that the Church has prepared for us today, by trying to relate them a little more to Mother’s Day. We know that Mother’s Day is not a religious holiday, though we often remember Mary as our Mother on this day. It is really more a Hallmark Day, probably invented more to market and sell things than it is to really honor the remarkable women who are our mothers. However, since it is Mother’s Day today, I would like to attempt this idea of looking at the readings through the lens of Mother’s Day.
I begin by wondering if Peter in the First Reading from Acts may have learned something from his Jewish mother when he gave the sermon that we hear today. It is filled with all sorts of guilt inducing elements – and it worked. We are told that as a result of his preaching, three thousand people were baptized. Peter is basically laying a guilt trip on the Jewish people he addresses. God sent us his Son, making him both Lord and Messiah, Peter says. He was both a great and humble person who preached, taught, healed, helped, and showed the way. And what did you do? You had him executed as a common criminal. And he deserved this? How?
Once Peter has made them feel badly by seeing the horror of what they had allowed to happen, he then shows the motherly, forgiving, unconditionally loving side of God, who is willing to take them back, forgive them, and in fact, give them gifts. Who couldn’t love a mother like that!
By using this tactic, Peter let the listeners feel for what they had done, want to make repentance for it, and recognize the great and loving God for what God was. What Jewish mother wouldn’t want that result!
When I read Psalm 23, probably the most loved Psalm, I can’t help think that the qualities that make a good shepherd are the qualities that also make a good mother. A good mother does not allow her children to want. When I was growing up we didn’t have a lot of money, and my mother seldom bought clothing or things for herself, but always made sure that we children had what we needed. I never even realized that we were financially struggling. Similarly, a good mother provides a home (green pastures) and stability and peace (still waters). When I was afraid of the dark or went through a period of being afraid of some boogie man, I too could fear no evil, for my mother was beside me during the night to calm my fears, and comfort me. Needless to say, my mother was also a good cook – owned her kitchen, really – and prepared many tables for me. When I was a baby, she oiled my body to prevent diaper rash, and when I was older, she made sure I bathed and was clean. My cup overflowed with the quiet love of that woman, allowing me to develop a deep spirituality myself, so that goodness and mercy could follow me all t days of my life. They probably didn’t have any female shepherds in the psalmist’s time, but mothers certainly can fit all the requirements.
In John’s Gospel today we get a mixed metaphor of Jesus being both the shepherd and the gate. I think for many of us it was our mother’s who first opened the gate for us, the person who was most around for us when we were young, and the person we most trusted, the person who first warned us not to talk to strangers. We, too, knew our mother’s voices, even as babies, and knew that this person would protect us and love us. The wonderful thing for me about Jesus is that he shows both masculine and feminine qualities in what he says and does. The images today show him as a male protector from the thieves and bandits, but female in that he is a gate, giving life, and giving it abundantly. Women are life-givers!
Lastly, I want to mention a line from the Second Reading today from Peter – “If you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For this you have been called…” Most of the true mothers that I have seen, even the ones who have great flaws – they are not all perfect! – do have love for their children which endures and often which causes them great suffering. We only have to look at Jesus’ mother Mary to see this. Mary was warned in a prophecy that she would suffer and her heart would be pierced. What must she have felt as she held her child’s body in her arms after the had died on the cross. A child is not supposed to die before a parent in the proper ordering of things, but Mary was called to this. Most mothers have known this type of suffering because of what a child has or hasn’t done, most mother’s suffer because they wonder if they have done a good enough job when they see their children stray, but most mothers never stop loving, never stop caring, never stop believing in their offspring.
I know that the readings today – none of them are about mothers – but I hope that you can see that the qualities that make a good mother are the qualities that the Gospel writers are valuing today, and good mothers are the physical representation on earth of what God the Father and Jesus live out each and every day, allowing us to partake of this through the Spirit.
May we reflect on our mothers today, both living and dead, and honor the gifts and the sufferings and unimaginable love that they bring to the world today.
This is good news, and though interpolated, is the Good News of the Jesus that I want to share with you today!
Bishop Ron Stephens
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]