I asked my daughter, Eryn Redig Potthast to do the homily this morning reflecting on what it means to be a mom. In addition, I told her if she could “tie” her reflections to the Scriptures of the day, all the better. Now with all humility, even though she is my daughter; I think she did an excellent job, on both counts! Thank you Eryn and Happy Mothers’ Day!
Thank you for the opportunity this morning to share a few thoughts with you on this Mother’s Day, 2019. The readings today don’t expressly talk about being Mothers, but there is some wisdom to be seen, I believe, that we can tie into this special day.
To begin with, in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see Paul and Barnabas trying to convert the Gentiles after they run into trouble with their own people who become jealous of the popularity they are gaining with the city. You have to want to see this, but this isn’t too different from being a parent, and often a Mom, especially with a strong-willed child. You can try all the arguments – “But this really is good for you! I’m just trying to help! I’m actually giving you something you want!” In the case of Paul and Barnabas, it’s everlasting life being offered (pretty good right?), but with your kids, it could be anything. Sometimes though, if it isn’t their idea, or they see someone getting more attention than them, well, there isn’t much you can do to change their mind. What you find you can and need to do, as a parent, is be patient, which is by no means easy. God, as parent, has to become patient with us too, as we figure out what is good for us, and come to our own decisions. It takes longer, but in the end, if you can own that decision, you are much more likely to want to stick with it. God, thankfully, is a patient parent, a patient Mom.
In the second reading from Revelation, although it probably is not directly referring to this, in light of the day we are celebrating, I’m going to see this as a metaphor for a parent who is responsible for nurturing and caring for life. First of all, we see an immense crowd with all represented – all types, all nations, all tribes, all languages. So, this applies to us all. And in this reading, these are those who have been tested – parents, yes? Who of us who are parents (or those who have cared for children) have not been tested? Repeatedly? But in the end of this reading we see the beautiful idea of the Shepherd, taking care of us. They will never be hungry, never thirsty, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes. If that isn’t a parent, I don’t know what is. At our basic levels, isn’t this what we are doing? Elliot says to me, “Water in my eyes!” when he gets upset or needs comforting. I know that means he wants me to wipe away his tears – and I do so because I am his Mom. God is a Shepherd – a Mom Shepherd.
The Gospel from John is short and sweet, but it talks about the Good Shepherd – The Sheep will hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. When you first become pregnant, what do people always tell you? Talk to your baby so he/she will know your voice. I used to read to Elliot when I was pregnant, and Adam and I would talk and sing to him. He knew our voice. My Mom came and helped us out for 6 weeks, as you all remember, when Elliot was born, and she spent a lot of time with him and talking to him when he was so little – they know each other now on a level that few other do, because of that voice connection. I think the important take away here is that we are connected deeply to people because of communication in many forms, but that connection through our voices is unique to each of us and because of that, we know where are loved ones are when they call out to us. When Adam and I would walk into the NICU after Elliot was born, we could hear his cry from down the hall because we knew his unique voice. Each time I hear his voice in a crowd of other kids, I know him because I know his unique voice. God is the parent who knows our unique voices.
So that’s the readings, but I have just a couple more thoughts about Mother’s Day. There was a time in my life when I thought I would never be a Mom, even though I always wanted to be one. My hold up was that I wanted to find the right person to share the experience with and raise a child with, but I hadn’t found him yet and thought I never would. So, I immersed myself in my friends’ kids and tried to be, not their Mom, but someone who could be a responsible person in their lives who they could depend on. Then I found Adam and we are now on this parent adventure together, but that time of being a surrogate parent to those cool kids was something I always treasure (and thank my friends for allowing me to be a part of that). It truly takes a community to raise a child, right?
When Mom asked me to consider doing this reflection, I thought, huh, so what do I have to say about being a parent? Or a Mom? These five years have gone fast and being a parent is hard work, but so unbelievably rewarding – and I’ve learned so much! I look around this room though, and I see a wealth of wisdom to draw on from those who have been on the journey much longer than I. For that I’m eternally grateful. And Mom and Dad, after experiencing some of this stuff, especially with Elliot where I can see myself looking straight back at me, I respect you even more than I grew to do over the years already.☺ There were times when I know raising me was not easy but I’m so glad you took the time to be patient with me, to be a Shepherd to me, and to get to know my own unique voice.
Raising a child is not easy and it takes many wonderful people to help bring a pretty cool kid up in this world. I was lucky growing up because I had my Mom and Dad, but I also had my Grandma and Grandpa Redig living across the yard from me, and I had my Aunt Jane and Joan growing up with me too. It was like having another two Moms available to help guide me, give me advice, and keep an eye on me. There are many people in this world who aren’t biological parents, but they sure put in the time, love, and care, and are devoted to kids in the same way. And these women should be celebrated today too because they are the support system that make this lifelong job a whole lot easier.
So today, I ask you to celebrate all those women in our lives who help to bring up the little people in our lives. Our lives are much bigger, richer, fuller, and complete because of all who care for children. We strive today, together to be patient, to shepherd our little people, and to let those unique voices shine.