My friends, today is Mothers’ Day and I thought it a good place to begin this homily after I worked for most of a morning to take some thoughts from three years ago and apply them to today. Sometimes, it is just best to start over!
When I think of what a true mother is; open-hearted, self-giving, compassionate, understanding and willing to do whatever it takes to see that her child is well-cared for; I think about the loving way that our good God moved into humanity to say in no uncertain terms that, “I love you, more than I can say.” God did this of course in Jesus.
Many of us have had such mothers in our lives, a gift to be truly grateful for, while others have found the “mothering” we all need in different ways and that too is a gift!” Some of us have physically given birth and others have “birthed life” into others in emotional and spiritual ways—all, wonderful gifts to be grateful for today.
On a day such as this that calls us to remember our physical, emotional and spiritual mothers, it might be good for each of us to take stock of all these people in our lives and say, “thank you” today, whether they are with us or not.
This past week our Church calendar remembered that moment in time when Jesus ceased to be present in the physical form that his first followers came to know and love. How this happened, we can’t actually say—people have tried through time to explain it, but the “how” is not the most important thing to remember about Ascension Thursday. Rather, we must always remember “what” our brother Jesus said before he physically left—that he would not leave us alone, the apostles, the disciples, or us.
Next Sunday, we will rejoice in the knowledge of this fact as we celebrate Pentecost—the coming of Jesus’ Spirit into our lives—the new way that he would always be with us. In the meantime, this Sunday calls our attention to the fact that we have arrived at the 7th and final Sunday of Easter, a season that has called us once again to the journey of the entire Church Year. We have lived it reflectively from Advent through this Easter Season. Advent prepared us to remember once again Jesus’ birth, then on through the quiet years of his youth when Scriptures tell us he “grew in wisdom and grace” and on through to his maturity when at one wonderful point in his adult life, he was able to proclaim in his hometown of Nazareth the Good News that captives, prisoners of all kinds—the poor and the lonely were now free—that their time of imprisonment was over!
Our journey through the Church Year to now has called us to remember that because Jesus fought for the rights and equality of all, challenging those with a lust for power, that these same ones would take his life, as a result, on a Friday that would forever after be called, good. Jesus’ life didn’t end there, we know, but continued beyond the grave to a new life that we will all experience one day.
So much of this, my friends, is clearly mystery to us—that we can’t completely wrap our minds around, and we would do better to simply lay upon our hearts, knowing that one day, as Paul says, “We will see clearly.”
Our life in faith is like this—it always calls us to look deeper than what appears on the surface. If we just take the simple words of Jesus that “he will not leave us,” we know that he must have a deeper meaning because Ascension Thursday remembers the fact that Jesus did physically leave those who loved him in his earthly life. We all, in our lives experience the “leaving” of those that we love, through illness, death, disagreement and the list continues. We all experience times when we wonder where God is. Knowing the loneliness of the feeling that God is not present to us; we might have to look further and deeper to where God might be.
The next step might be to ask as John seems to be in today’s Gospel—when did you do the loving thing—the gesture that was needed in a broken world? When did you give a share of your wealth so that others could have the basics of life? When did you give comfort to a sad, lonely, forgotten person? When did you speak the word of truth that was needed to make a situation better?
John says, when you do any of these things, you make Jesus present to our world again and again and again! The deeper idea that our brother Jesus wants us to get through his entire earthly life is that as his followers, it matters a great deal how we choose to live our lives.
Our life in Christ, the resurrected Jesus will only be as good as we are willing to make it! That is truly what it is all about! So if there are those who are suffering in any way in our world, it is because good people are not seeing, are not doing their part to make things better—to make Jesus present.
Jesus is present in each of us if we allow him to be there and the only “Jesus” some people may see and experience may be through us! I can’t tell you the times that I heard, in my ministry as a chaplain, patients say that they don’t go to church anymore because they see so many hypocrites there every week who go out afterward and act contrary to what they [hopefully] heard while in church. So, my friends, people are watching and expecting that we walk the talk. No one ever said that this would be easy—“this Christianity stuff” and the tenets of other faith backgrounds, but it seems that the rewards that come from striving to follow Jesus and other holy models are worth it—goodness is really reciprocal and it is what this world needs now more than ever!
So, my friends, Happy Mothers’ Day to any who have ever mothered in any way, be you female or male. And happy last week of Easter that is really, for the Christian, every day! Amen? Amen!