Happy Mothers’ day to you all here in the Philippines and around the world!
I had a memorable phone conversation with my mother while I was in the seminary in Boston in 2003. I was about to visit my native country of Nigeria for the very first time after over four years. I asked her what gift she wanted me to get for her from the United States. I asked this question boldly not because I was rich but because I was confident that in her simplicity she would not ask for anything too expensive for me! She replied, “Don’t bother about gifts. Just come back home. We need to be together again.” A typical mother’s deepest desire – the return of her children and their restored unity.
God constantly points to a mother’s love to express His own tender love for His children. In response to the Israelites’ insinuation that God had abandoned them in their exile, God responds, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she would have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will never forget you.” (Is 49:15) Jesus also expresses His desire to bring us all home when He lamented over Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wing, and you would not.”(Mt 23:37)
In today’s Gospel, Jesus declares that God’s motherly love for us is shown in His unceasing desire for us now and always that we come back home to Him. God did not only “love the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son,” but “there are many dwelling places in our Father’s house.” Jesus Himself desires that we be united with Him for ever and ever that He did not only become one like us, die on the Cross and rise from the grave, but He has “prepared a place for us in His Father’s house,” and He is now leading us back to Him so that “where He is, we too might be.” In addition to desiring the end for us (life with God forever), Jesus also desires the means for us to attain this end i.e. all that we need to do the same things that Jesus did with the very same sentiments towards the Father and others, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do and will do greater ones than these.”
Jesus, as true God and true man, offers us communion with the Father in and through Himself, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Because He is “the author and perfecter of our faith,”(Heb 12:2) it is through our faith in Jesus that we begin to desire what Jesus desires for each and every one of us i.e. our unity here on earth with Him and with each other and our journey as a family back to God in the Church. We can only do what Christ has done with the same sentiments when we begin to share in that deepest desire that moved Jesus Himself.
The early Church reflects this same desire. They foster the unity of the community by promptly addressing the injustice against the Hellenist widows by appointing seven reputable men “filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” They meet the widows’ needs without getting distracted from what is essential – their journey back to God as a community and inviting others to join the community, “Select seven reputable men… whom we will appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Thus they did what Christ did – spread the word about His Father, gathered us into His community and leads us back home to the Father, “The word of God continued to spread, and the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly.”
If God’s desire is for us all to be with Him for all eternity and if this same desire burns in the heart of His Son Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, can we truly say that the greatest desire we have in our hearts today as members of the Church is to come back to God and to invite others to journey home with us? Aren’t we instead bogged down with daily cares and responsibilities that our desire for eternal union with God is somewhat dwindling? Isn’t it much easier to ignore others rather than inviting them to journey with us and risk being labelled a bigot? How can we grow in our faith today to the point that we begin to share deeply and constantly in Christ’s own desire for us?
We celebrated yesterday the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Our Mother Mary appeared to the three recently canonized children a hundred years ago and asked them to do many things e.g. pray the rosary, fast, attend Mass and receive the Eucharist in reparation for sins, confess their sins regularly and warn the world not to offend God by sin, etc. Our Mother Mary shows us in Fatima that she has one desire burning in her heart: that we come back home to God and to do so as a community of faith united with her Son Jesus Christ.
By praying the Holy Rosary as she requested us to do, we begin to share in Mary’s invincible faith in Jesus Christ as well as her own desire that we be united with Jesus and with others. Mary’s desires were most perfectly conformed to that of Jesus Christ. Focusing on the mysteries of Christ’s life in the Rosary, we ponder what Christ has done in those mysteries and learn from Mary how to respond to God in our own daily lives. Besides, by our intimate conversation with Mary in the praying of the Rosary, we begin to hear her whisper to us the words she spoke at the wedding of Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.” The Rosary nurtures our faith; as we grow in faith, we shelve our own selfish and self-seeking desires and desire more what Jesus desires for us and for others; the more that we desire what Jesus desires for us, the more we have the strength to do what Christ did in our world today, especially worship of the Father and service of others.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus has come back to us and is leading us to the Father’s home step by step. The road to heaven is not an easy road. It is so easy to get distracted or discouraged by our sins and sufferings. Our own desire for heaven is so small and inconstant. Let us never forget Christ’s desire that we be with Him wherever He is. We shall be with Him in His hidden life with Mama Mary and St. Joseph in Nazareth, in His temptations in the desert, in His ministry of gathering others to the Father, in His agony in the garden, in His abandonment by His disciples, in His passion and death, in His grave, and ultimately, in His Father’s house where He has prepared a place for us with so many dwelling places.
Our Eucharist today is another encounter with Jesus and an outpouring into our hearts of His own desires for us and for the entire world as well as the graces and virtues that we need to do what He has done just as He has done it. With our hearts ever open to Mother Mary, our loving Mother who never ceases to call us back home, if we let nothing trouble our hearts or weaken our faith in Jesus, our hearts will burn with that desire to do what Christ has done so as to be with Him and Mother Mary and all the heavenly court forever and ever. Amen!!!
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!