This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day and I want to begin by expressing both our gratitude and our prayers to all mothers, grandmothers, godmothers and all who show a mother’s care to us. As I write these words, I am embraced by my own mother’s love and the witness of so many holy women who have been bearers of love, care and kindness to us and others over the years.
We observe also the Fourth Sunday of Easter dedicated to the “Good Shepherd.” Again, this Lord’s Day, you and I are being invited to listen to the call of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in our lives and to follow him. The Church observes this Sunday in the liturgical year as the “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of the missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas and their call to be a “light to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:47).
This same call is heard on the day of baptism when the light of the Christ is entrusted to the newly baptized “to be kept burning brightly,” especially through the witness of parents and godparents, but indeed the entire Christian community. Psalm 100 proclaims, “We are God’s people, the sheep of his flock.” These words are the holy anthem rising which again announces that we are an “Easter people”; and as such, are inviting us to consider whether single, married, in the consecrated life or ordained, how do you and I radiate Christ wherever we find ourselves in life?
For me, this is the examination of conscience that each one of us needs to do daily! How is Jesus Christ made or not made present to others through our words and deeds? This question leads me to words that I believe are undervalued in our culture today—“chaste or chastity.” So often used merely in conjunction with human sexuality, their deeper meaning can seemingly get lost in the mix.
The words “chaste or chastity” both connote a purity in act or intention. But even more, they involve “the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift” (#2337-Catechism of the Catholic Church). In my view, what so often gets lost in our world today is the “giftedness” of the human person in his or her very self! So often, there seems to be the opinion that you and I can improve upon God’s creation, rather than heed the words of the psalmist: “Be still and know I am God” (Ps. 46:10).
This idea is further illustrated by the call of this Sunday’s Gospel to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. How would you and I be different … live differently … be comfortable in our own skin … if we embraced our own uniqueness and value in God’s eyes rather than struggle to prove ourselves to others? What if we took seriously God’s voice in our lives vs. all those claiming to be “some god’s” voice today? I think of a statement I once heard from a person who said to me regarding some life decisions he had made that he was only trying to improve the canvas of the life God had given him. While in essence this can be a positive statement, I think it can suggest also the original sin haunting the human family—to make ourselves “God!”
Bishop Robert Barron in his book on the Eucharist writes: “The fundamental determination of good and evil remains, necessarily, the prerogative of God alone, since God is himself, the ultimate good. To seize this knowledge, therefore, is to claim divinity for oneself—and this is the one thing that a creature can never do and thus should never try. To do so is to place oneself in a metaphysical contradiction, interrupting thereby the loop of grace and ruining the sacrum convivium (sacred banquet)”-(pg. 21).
Again, the Catechism of Catholic Church teaches: “Of all visible creatures only man is ‘able to know and love his creator.’ He is ‘the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake,’ and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity”: “What made you establish man in so great a dignity? Certainly the incalculable love by which you have looked on your creature in yourself! You are taken with love for her; for by love indeed you created her, by love you have given her a being capable of tasting your eternal Good”- (St. Catherine of Siena) (#1782).
There is a saying, “a face only a mother could love!” As I write this column, I wish to remind myself and you that each of us has a face that our God loves to infinity! As the Lord declared through the prophet Isaiah: “Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you!” (Is. 49:15). This Sunday as we celebrate our mothers and call to mind the voice of the Good Shepherd, let us find in them both a reminder of our calling to be God’s light in the world today.
And so we pray:
Hail Mary, full of grace;
all generations call you blessed.
Hail Mother of God; when asked by the angel
to bear the Son of the Most High,
filled with faith, you responded:
“Let it be done unto me.”
Holy Mother of Jesus, at the wedding feast at Cana,
you prompted your Son to perform his first sign.
Be with us as we discern our life’s work
and guide us in the way we are called to follow
in the footsteps of your Son.
Holy Mother of the Savior, at the foot of the cross
you mourned the death of your only Son.
Bless and embrace the loving parents of all priests,
deacons, brothers and sisters.
Holy Mother of the Good Shepherd,
turn your motherly care to this nation.
Intercede for us to the Lord of the harvest
to send more laborers to the harvest
in this land dedicated to your honor.
Queen of Peace, Mirror of Justice, Health of the Sick,
inspire vocations in our time.
Let the word of your Son be made flesh anew
in the lives of persons anxious to proclaim
the good news of everlasting life.
(Source: USCCB website)