John’s wonderful gospel from chapter 17 is the testament upon which our parish, All Are One stands. I don’t think it could be clearer from Jesus’ mouth what the intention of our Loving God was in sending him—“that all may be one” –he says it again and again, over and over, using many of the same words in order that his hearers, and that includes each of us, would get it—we are loved by God. Period! End of story! How else can I tell you that I love you, Jesus seems to be saying—that is what these years among you have been about—I love you, my Abba God loves you; we are for you.
This gospel is a very intimate one—“I have revealed your name, and I will continue to reveal it so that your love for me may live in them and I may live in them.” When someone says that they want to live in us—I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as the stuff of a great love story.
As we ponder this gospel, I call your attention to the fact that there is nothing in it about Jesus coming to save us from our sins—to die a horrible death, to redeem us. This gospel speaks of a people already loved by God—already redeemed, who need do nothing but love in return. As we conclude the Easter Season this next week, this is a lovely end note.
Today we remember our mothers, grandmothers, perhaps other women who have “mothered” us throughout our lives. For many of us, these fine women who have given us the gift of life in physical, emotional and spiritual ways have gone on to their heavenly reward. Others of us are still graced by their presence with us. Regardless, those of us who have been touched by special women and have known a mother’s touch and care, realize the gift that was, and continues to be. We perhaps all have a fond memory of a special woman in our lives, or maybe even a man who filled a “mothering” role for us. I think of gay men for instance across this country raising children within their committed relationships—mothering isn’t gender-specific.
May is also the month when we remember Mary, our mother, Jesus’ mother on this earth. You perhaps noticed our Mary banner is back up and we will use it now for the month of May. Mary was a strong woman, a woman of faith, who spoke truth to power in her Magnificat, which we will use for our concluding hymn (Canticle of the Turning) today in deference to her. The Magnificat speaks of how the child she would give the world would pull the mighty from their thrones, would lift up the lowly. She was our human sister, a woman that we can all look up to and emulate in our lives. She was a woman of whom it has been said, the Church needs to take a second look at as it does all women in order that the world can begin to see her and her sisters as God does—as strong, faithful and with a purpose beyond being relegated to pedestals.
Out of Rome we see a new monthly magazine, Women-Church-World, that speaks through women writers about the obvious inequality in our Church regarding roles for women. This magazine is under the auspices of L’ Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, so we don’t know really what this means as no change of rules, but perhaps an opening of the discussion.
On this day that remembers the vocation of motherhood, my reflection on John 17 and the words contained therein, speak of a love as many of us remember when we think of those who mothered us in our lives. Continuing the reflection on John 17 and God’s great love for us mentioned there, we need to be aware that there is still theology around that speaks of God as someone who sent Jesus as a sacrifice to redeem humanity. This “god” needs the suffering to appease his lust for blood. I personally choose to recognize the God of John 17, so perfectly expressed in Jesus, one who walks with us on our life journeys, celebrates our joys—cries with us in our losses—is one with us.
Those first followers of Jesus; Peter, James, John, Mary of Magdala, Matthew and the others, didn’t grieve his death and his passing from this earth because he was an ogre—they grieved because he was an outstanding human being who loved profoundly and called each of them and us to be our very best selves—a gift many of our mothers gave us and for which we remember and are grateful today.
Stephen, who may or may not have known Jesus in the flesh, knew his Spirit and his story and experienced his life force in a way that enabled him to boldly proclaim Jesus’ truth to his enemies even though it meant giving his life. He was a man who had Jesus’ Spirit within him—God had come to be one with him. Such strength and courage as Stephen displayed comes out of love, not fear of a disapproving God who constantly needs the suffering of human creatures to be appeased.
This past Thursday, the Church remembered Jesus’ Ascension which signaled a new way that we would now experience his presence—in his Spirit, which we will more fully celebrate next week on Pentecost Sunday. These past seven weeks we have reflected on the wonder of Jesus’ resurrection which assures us that one day we will experience this phenomenon too. While the death of Jesus brought sadness to his followers as does the death of our loved ones to us in this life; we must always keep our eyes on the next gift that our loving God gives—because this God is continually giving us more—we can’t experience the next life without passing from this life when our time comes.
I especially think of those within this community who have lost loved ones since our inception as a parish and of friends and acquaintances of each of us who have died—all these are with our loving God now—with Jesus, our brother, enjoying eternal life—a mystery we can only see dimly, as Paul says.
The knowledge of the Resurrection—Jesus’ and our own one day, is about taking life seriously now. As I indicated in the bulletin message—the Resurrection calls us to be grown-ups in our faith—to be about all that is best in life, in gratitude for the love given by a God who wants to live in us—to be one with us, who requests, implores even, that we strive to be one as a people—to invite everyone to the table—to make everyone welcome.
It would behoove us all on this last Sunday of Easter to ask ourselves how much humanity makes it into our daily lives? –better said, how much heart? How much kindness? Joan Chittister reminds of the words of one of our mother’s in the faith, Abba Poeman, who said, “Teach your mouth to speak what is in your heart.” Jesus came that we would have life and have it to the full. May we each do all that is humanly possible, with God’s Spirit, to bring life to our world.
In conclusion then; I’d like to complete our thoughts on living and loving by sharing some of your thoughts on how you have been mothered in your lifetime. Happy Mother’s Day to all!
[If you are reading these words, you might want to take a few moments to reflect on someone who has mothered you and what that has meant to you in your life.]