Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton
7th Sunday of Easter – May 13, 2018
Mother’s Day Adoption Mass
On many of the Sundays on which we’ve gathered during this Easter Season, we’ve been reflecting in our gospel readings on the words of Jesus that come to us from the Last Supper in St. John’s gospel. In today’s passage, Jesus offers his final prayer, shared just prior to being arrested and led to his cross. Jesus begins by praying for himself, that he may obediently bring to completion the work of redemption entrusted to him by his Father. Then he prays for his disciples – those who were with him in his earthly journey – and those who would embrace discipleship down through the ages – ultimately me and you.
The prayer that Jesus offers is both a petition on behalf of his disciples and a commissioning. Jesus asks the Father that his disciples be protected from the evil one, consecrated to all that is true and good in God’s plan, and then sent into the world to take up Jesus’ own mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. … Our second reading from the first Letter of Saint John goes on to give us a blueprint for how this plan of God – this mission of discipleship – will be realized. “If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.”
You see, in the miracle and wonder of God, Jesus knew that in conveying the sublime love of God to the fragile and broken world that he was sent to save, he couldn’t merely speak about it in abstract terms. For love to mean anything to us, it couldn’t be just a word or a command. It couldn’t be remote or ethereal. It had to be understood in human terms. God’s love had to be concrete. So Jesus used his own life and death to teach us about this love. And he consistently proclaimed that God’s love would endure in our world when his disciples made his mission their own.
Consequently, it is only in and through our commitment to giving life and substance to Jesus’ commandment to love one another that we will ever begin to fulfill God’s plan and find the way to true holiness and peace in our lives and in our world.
Just about a month ago, Pope Francis issued a beautiful exhortation on the call to holiness in today’s world. It’s entitled Gaudete et Exsultate – “Rejoice and be glad.” The Holy Father begins his reflections by reminding all of us that this great goal of holiness is well within our reach. He speaks about the saints who accompany us on our journey of life and faith and then is quick to point out that not every saint who is worthy of our attention is already beatified or canonized. Instead, he speaks of “the saints next door.”
“I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance, I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbors, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them ‘the middle class of holiness.’”
How fitting that, as we reflect during these latter days of the Easter season upon Jesus’ challenge to embrace his invitation to holiness and mission, today we celebrate and give thanks for those women – our mothers – who have accepted that challenge and sought to live it authentically: Mothers who have given us life – mothers, who, though unable to care for the lives they bore, for love of God and life itself, entrusted those precious gifts to the care of others – mothers who opened their hearts to children desperately in need of a loving and nurturing home – grandmothers – foster mothers – and all who have nurtured and cared for life.
It is a common truth that we learn how to love from being loved and from seeing love in action. It’s as simple and profound as that. And that’s why it’s so important for us to recognize that underneath all of the commercialism that can easily attach to this day, there lies a deeper, sacred reality: we honor mothers because in almost every case, our first encounter with love came from our mother. That love is hardly a sentimental love – but rather, a sacred love – a selfless, sacrificial, forgiving love that mirrors the very love of Jesus himself.
It’s true that often people will reflect upon the struggles that they may have faced growing up in their family of origin. Such realities can hardly be dismissed. Yet, sometimes we look for a perfection or an ideal that’s just not possible. And in the process of so doing, we miss recognizing the good – the holiness – that is present among us.
Some of you know my mother – who this year celebrated her 90th birthday. She wouldn’t mind for a moment that I’ve given away her age. In fact, she’s quite proud of it – and so am I and the rest of my family. At 90 years of age, she continues to be independent. She lives on her own, drives and enjoys traveling, and still cooks better than any of us. And most every other day, she spends about 20 minutes on the treadmill – which is more than I can say.
When asked around the time of her milestone birthday to reflect upon her 90 years, here’s what she said. “I’m grateful to God for still being able to experience life so fully at my age. I’m grateful as well for my family and friends.” And she added, “I’ve simply tried to do the best that I could with all that God has given to me.” … “I’ve tried to do the best that I could with all that God has given to me.”
Once again, Pope Francis has the blessed capacity to tap into my own mother’s sentiments and those that most of us embrace this day. Listen to his words. “To love like Jesus is not easy because we are often so weak. But just to try to love as Christ loved us shows that Christ shares his own risen life with us. In this way, our lives demonstrate his power at work – even in the midst of human weakness.”
We give thanks today for the blessing of those who have tried to the best of their God-given abilities to protect, support, sustain and love God’s gift of life – a blessing that has been so generously given to each of us through the lives of our mothers.
By their example, they teach us that it is possible to love as Jesus commands – generously and selflessly. … They also remind us that they – and we – become signs of the risen Jesus’ presence in the world when we open our lives to his love and make it our own.