Tag Archives: Mother’s Day

5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER 2017

As my concept of God was widening many years ago, I began to say that there are many paths to God. As true as I believe that to be, I don’t say it anymore; I have come to see, instead, that there are many paths with God. Who would ever deny that the late Mahatma Gandhi or the present Dalai Lama or the Orthodox Jew across the street are persons very much in touch with that reality we call God? We Catholics may regard ourselves as especially fortunate because we have been born into, or have come to, the Christian faith; but obviously that is not possible for all people, who therefore know the incomprehensible God in ways different from ours.

But, Jesus said that there is no other name on earth by which we are saved except his and that there is only one path to God, whom he called Father, and that path is himself. That appears at first to be an unresolvable contradiction to what you just heard me say; but actually it has everything to do with how literally we interpret the scriptures. Fundamentalists, both Catholic and Protestant, take those words attributed to Jesus at their face value and insist that only those who follow them literally will achieve eternal life; all others are damned to eternal punishment. Others of us say that Jesus’ words can be understood for their true and intended meaning only in the context of his entire life and message, and that therefore adjustments have to be made to uncover the truth.

The responsibility of the Christian faith community is not as easy as accepting lock, stock, and barrel every word found in the Scriptures, but to use our intelligence—our power to reason, our imaginations, our memories—in the sometimes hard work of ferreting out the real truth of what has been handed down to us.

There is one such adjustment we all make without hesitation or debate: we hear Jesus say that he is the vine and we are the branches and we recognize immediately that he is using a metaphor, the meaning of which we grasp at once. That’s the way it is in all human speaking and writing and thinking: we shift back & forth between the literal and the figurative. So did Jesus and those who originally wrote about him.

I assume that Jesus understood that his message could not possibly reach the whole world during his lifetime or for centuries beyond. But he knew that all human beings are God’s beloved creatures, and he could never have thought or taught that any one of them would perish through no fault of his or her own. Truth be told, I am among those who hold that no one, no serial killer or murderous dictator, goes to everlasting torture. To those who would have the good fortune of knowing and following him Jesus made an attractive promise: that he himself would nourish them along the way of life, that they would not be left to depend only on their own limited resources.

Many times in my past it was that lifeline that I needed, and the passage of time has shown again and again that it did not fail. The goal of our prayer life, whether private or communal, is to respond to the invitation, “Remain in me as I remain in you.”

Life doesn’t get any more secure than that!

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Today is Mother’s Day, a time set aside by our grateful nation to honor and thank and sincerely praise all those good women who said yes to life by conceiving and bearing and raising children.

How easily those words trip off the tongue, but how much they signify – conceiving, bearing, raising! Our mothers’ commitment was not for a moment of courageous action but for a lifetime of daily efforts and generous love and personal sacrifices that created the favorable circumstances in which their beloved offspring could become their best possible selves.

There are no words in the English or any other language that can even begin to measure up to the dimensions of their gift to us. We are left with the feeble, but most heartfelt, words of a traditional blessing: Happy Mother’s Day!

HOMILY FOR 6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, 2015

At this time of the church year, as the scriptures are closing out Jesus’ earthly life, they emphasize the overriding notion of love.  We’ve just heard three readings on that same topic.  But can you think of any other concept that is as badly misrepresented as that of love?  You have only to reflect for a moment on the definition of love we get from movies and popular literature & song and TV every other form of human communication, to know how wrong and misleading they are so much of the time.

We know what genuine love is by examining the unconditional devotion of good parents, faithful spouses, and loyal friends.  Loving means giving – giving one’s self, one’s things, one’s time.  A true lover asks to receive only another’s trust, affection, joy – and understanding, forgiveness, patience.  Complete love is a productive communication in which persons grow through a union of hearts.  In such love, in such persons, the presence of God is made most manifest.

I believe it is true to say that human beings of this 21st century are much less humble than those who have gone before us.  If that is so, the cause seems to be that we have unprecedented control of our lives through the explosive development of science.  “Who needs a God?” is becoming the slogan of modern sophisticates as they board a plane to fly around the world or twist a dial to change the ambient temperature to their preference.

There have got to be those who are thinking, “With the enormous problems the human race faces today, even the possibility of extinction at its own hands, isn’t it foolish, downright Pollyannaish, to talk about love?  Isn’t there a more practical, more constructive battle cry that needs to be heard?”

But the wisdom of the Creative Spirit will not accept any such dismissal.  Despite the woefully unscientific character of the ancient sacred documents, the Spirit persists in putting before us timeless, infallible truths, the chief of which is that God is love.  Not until we creatures succeed in making love our first priority in all aspects of existence will we ever be able to sustain a life that is peaceful and satisfying and happy for all without exception.

That said, and after much internal debate, I decided that I would use words that I wrote several years ago as the core of the homily for this 6th Sunday of Easter and also the American celebration of Mother’s Day.  They are hardly Shakespearean in content or in style, but I offer them in the hope that they can be helpful to all, no matter the relationship they best fit.  I called it “Pledges of Love.”

The most important and best prepared gift I offer you will be my love. 

I will express my love first and always by accepting your humanness even as I know that you accept mine. 

I will speak to you kindly and try always to think of you kindly, no matter the circumstances of the moment. 

I will dwell on and honor your gifts and talents; I will never resent what you are and what you have – or what you are not and what you do not have. 

I will be gentle, even when I am under stress and when I feel that you have not met my expectations. 

I will seek what is pleasing to you and find joy in your joy. 

I will discern with you what is good and true in all things that touch our lives. 

I will be with you in a relationship of mutual trust, concern, confidence and determination – a reasonable and achievable commitment only because we both believe that God is in us and with us always, making possible what we could not otherwise accomplish on our own. 

Happy Easter to all – and, to our most special honorees, Happy Mother’s Day!