6th Sunday of Easter – Mother’s Day
May 14, 2023 

Today’s gospel takes place during the last supper as Jesus prepares to face his death.  Jesus knows that the end is near.  His disciples sense from his words and gestures that storm clouds are gathering for their friend as well as for themselves.  So Jesus reassures his disciples that they would not be left alone but that the Father would give them another Advocate – the Spirit of Truth – who would remain with them forever.  “I will not leave you orphans.  …  In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.” 

Jesus assures his disciples that his suffering and death – far from being the end of his story – would set the stage for God to perform his greatest act in raising Jesus to life and in pouring forth the Spirit upon the followers of his Son – thereby giving them – and all of us – a way forward in life with hope. 

On Mother’s Day, apart from giving thanks for the gift of my own mother, who at 95 continues to be a blessing in my life and that of my family, I often think of a great aunt of mine, who served as something of a grandmother figure in my life since my father’s mother died when he was just three – my Aunt Marie.  Living into her late 80’s and passing over thirty years ago, she was a formidable figure, always present and always on the go, despite her constant assertions that she wasn’t feeling well.  She was never without an opinion, but always had your back.  More than anything else, she was a woman of faith.

What many of us often forgot, given her buoyant manner, love for life and fidelity to her God, was the fact that in addition to burying her husband after 60+ years of marriage, she buried each of her three children – one in childbirth, one as a little girl in a tragic house fire, and her son, who died suddenly of a heart attack in her presence in his 50’s.  I recall asking her once how she was able to survive seemingly so well in the face of such loss.  Her response was at once both candid yet filled with hope.  “No one will ever know how much I cry at the loss of my family – but I am absolutely convinced that there is nothing in life that we can’t face if we have faith in Jesus and the power of his resurrection.”

For all that we profess, how does one make such an affirmation of faith and hope as that proclaimed by my Aunt Marie?  …  How?  …  It depends upon where we look and how we understand God’s plan of salvation that we celebrate today.  

If we believe that we’re owed a perfect life that’s stress free and filled with all sorts of pleasures and good health, we’ll likely be disappointed.  Nowhere in the scriptures are we ever told that faith will assure us of life without a cross.  If, however, we are humble and wise enough to probe the miracle of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus, we’ll discover a pathway to hope and peace, regardless of how life unfolds around us.

Years ago, Pope Benedict, shared these words that speak to the heart of what we all seek in life.  “Christian hope means to know about evil and yet to go to meet the future with confidence.”  …  Hope for the Christian – for me and you – does not emerge, then, from the absence of suffering and pain in our lives.  Hope grows from a relationship with Jesus and belief and trust in the power of God.

But the Word of God also reminds us that this relationship with Jesus deepens when we understand that his gift of hope that emerges from his resurrection is not a gift meant to be preserved solely for ourselves.  It is a gift received by the followers of Jesus that is meant to be given away. 

Throughout his gospel, John never allows love, as taught by Jesus, to remain at the level of sentiment or emotion.  Love compels us to embrace the attitude of Christ and to behold the image of God in one another.  To love as Jesus loved – selflessly, without conditions and without expectation of that love ever being returned – is the love that Jesus expects of those who claim to be his disciples.

As Christians, then, we exist for a purpose:  to proclaim the good news of Jesus!  …  We exist to proclaim love and respect for creation – especially that part of creation made in the image and likeness of God.  …  We exist to feed, clothe and heal the wounded and broken.  …  We exist to love, to forgive and to work for peace – in our families – among our friends – and in the world that God has given to us. 

A tall order?  Yes!  …  An expectation beyond our ability?  Not at all!  …  Just look at the women whose lives we honor this day and for whom we give thanks: our mothers and grandmothers and all those who have so nurtured and cared for life – loving selflessly, without expectation of receiving love in return, in the spirit of the merciful and selfless love of Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, it is true that the crosses that find their way into our lives often get far more of our attention than the consolation and joy we also experience.  May we pray today for the grace of God to open our eyes to the countless number of blessings that we’ve all been given through faith and so find our peace, no matter what life unfolds.