Sometimes spring arrives later than we would like. This has been one of those years. The temperatures have remained cooler than normal and we have had plenty of April and early May showers. Finally, however, we are experiencing the signs of new life. Trees are budding, the geese are returning, the sun is warmer, the grass is green, and flowers are blooming! The beauty of May surrounds us.
May is a month to celebrate and recognize the beauty of life, both natural and supernatural. I have always thought it fitting that Mother’s Day, in our country, occurs during May. It is an occasion to focus on simple ideas and basic values… goodness, selflessness, godliness, and holiness. It is day to remember mothers, living and deceased, and offer our gratitude to them for the gift of life, their care during infancy, their guidance and sage advice as we were maturing, and their continued love and support throughout our lives.
For many of us our mothers played a vital role in our faith development. They awakened us to the sense of God and guided our first steps in prayer. They helped to develop our moral conscience and formed us in a true awareness of human love, understood as a reflection of God’s love.
During the month of May my heart and thoughts turn naturally toward my mother and the numerous memories of her love, care, and support for me and for my brother and sister. She was a faithful wife and a devoted mother. Nothing can come close to the experience of her warmth and love.
There is another mother who occupies my thoughts often and to whom I turn for inspiration, guidance and maternal care — our Blessed Mother. Her example teaches me — and all of us — how to be disciples of her Son.
At the Annunciation, as a young teenager, Mary accepted the message of an angel that told her she would bear a child. We see Mary’s openness to God’s action in her life even though the message seemed beyond human possibility. By her “yes” Mary gave her assent to all the unexpected events that would enter her life — a series of events that were often far beyond human calculations. When we do not understand God’s plan Mary teaches us to remain close to Christ, cherishing the divine word and living it as best we can.
On two occasions in the Gospel — the shepherd’s arrival at Bethlehem and the finding of Jesus in the temple — we are told that Mary treasured, pondered, and stored all she heard in her heart. From Mary we learn the importance of listening which is more than simply hearing. “Listening . . . is an openness of heart which makes possible that closeness without which true genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur. Through listening . . . we enter on the paths of true growth . . . the desire to respond fully to God’s love and to bring to fruition what he has sown in our lives” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 171). When the hustle, bustle, and noise of everyday life crowds out the divine word, Mary’s example points in the direction of attentive listening, pondering, and treasuring the word within us.
“Do whatever he tells you (Jn 2:5).” This was Mary’s instruction to the stewards at the wedding in Cana. After pointing out to Jesus that the wine was gone, Jesus’ response seemed to imply “this is not our problem.” “Why turn to me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:3). Mary’s confidence is unflinching. Jesus will take care of the matter. When we take our concerns to Mary, she intercedes for us. I am confident she takes our concerns to her Son and supports us as we “do whatever he tells us.”
The Blessed Mother is the preeminent woman of faith. As she stood at the foot of the cross, constant in her faith, in the midst of sorrow and loss, Jesus spoke to her. “Woman, there is your son” (Jn 19:26). With these words, Mary was invited to expand the horizon of her faith and the understanding of her role. Her motherhood moved beyond her dying son. Her spiritual maternity extends now to all of God’s children. She truly is our mother. With a mother’s love, she watches over us.
The simplicity and beauty of motherhood is a treasure. May this Mother’s Day be an occasion to express our gratitude to the mothers who brought us into this world, to our Blessed Mother, a model of faith who watches over us and to the Church — who with maternal solicitude proclaims God’s word, teachers us in matters of faith and assists in the formation of our conscience. Mary, Mother of God, and our mother, pray for us and walk with us on the journey of life and faith.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.