In Catholic culture, we have a number of images symbolically associated with mothers and motherhood. Eve is called the mother of all the living; Mary is called the Mother of God; and the Church, through Baptism, is the mother of all Christians.
In a natural sense, we all experience, through our own birth, our mother’s motherhood. As a man, I will never experience another kind of motherhood so intimately; except now, I am blessed to observe in awe my wife each day. Every day, I watch her nurture and form my daughter into what we hope will be a mature, independent, happy, holy human being. My daughter may go on herself to become a mother. She will be called to the same beautiful and sacred vocation for her own children. From generation to generation, mothers bless children, in their image and likeness, with their love, devotion and sacrifice.
In a spiritual sense, we are blessed by another kind of motherhood. Christ, in union with His bride the Church, gives birth to us as adopted sons and daughters of God. We bear the image and likeness of Christ and His Church, just as we bear the image and likeness of our fathers and mothers. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were made in the image and likeness of God. But in the Fall, that image and likeness was disfigured and corrupted. Our ancestors, in the image and likeness of Adam and Eve, could hardly look at one another and still see the image and likeness of God or the beauty and goodness of our Creator. But, through the Church, Christ has remade humanity anew. He has and is conforming us into the fullness of the image and likeness of God. He is restoring what had been corrupted and disfigured through sin.
Unfortunately, though, sin still remains present throughout our society and the whole human race. Sin even seems pervasive among Christians and our Church leaders. Our own sin and the sin of others act like the grime on a cloudy lens. The cloudy lens prevents us from seeing God in ourselves and one another. But, despite this, we can still see a glimpse of God in the saints, the sons and daughters of the Church on their way to perfection. By saints, I don’t mean only the canonized ones, but the “saints” we share daily life with. On Mother’s Day, we highlight our mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, and spiritual mothers; the women who provide us with a glimpse of God through their love. Our own mothers, ideally, desire the same things for us that the Church does for her children. The Church yearns to give birth to sons and daughters who seek the truth and do the good and love the beautiful. The Church yearns for her children to desire what is good and to choose what is right for ourselves and others. The Church, like our mothers, yearns for her children to be at peace with God, with nature and with the people around us. What natural mother doesn’t want the same for her children?
How do we repay the effort of our mothers to give us a joyful and fulfilling life? mothers both natural and spiritual. We must nourish and cultivate in our own lives whatever is good and beautiful and true. This is how we can repay the debt we owe to our mothers, and the mothers who have lived and died before us, who sacrificed for our good. Even though our natural mothers were not “perfect,” they were all doing the best that they could with what they had. We would do well to do likewise: the best we can with what we have.
For Mother’s Day, let us give thanks for our mothers, and remember our debt. There were many sleepless nights and willing sacrifices made for our formation and our growth and flourishing. Most of their sacrifices were hidden. They were made without expectation of a reward. Many sacrifices went unnoticed by us who benefited from them. But the Lord knows all things and He will reward each according to the love shown to His little ones. As sons and daughters, let us reward our mothers with a virtuous and honorable life. We are in the image and likeness of both God and our mothers; a holy and righteous life sings a hymn of thanksgiving for our devoted mothers. Happy Mothers’ Day!