Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Sermon for Mother's Day...

Preached by Father Lee Nelson
St. Laurence Church
Southlake, Texas
May 13th, 2007

A friend of mine carries this quote in his pocket every day.

In fact, it’s on his business card.

It reads:

“The Most Important Person
The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral - a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body.....
The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature. God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation...
What on God’ good earth is more glorious than this:
to be a Mother.”

The thing you need to know about this friend of mine is that he was permanently disabled in Vietnam - he is bound to a wheelchair. He knows sacrifice better than most.

But, the other thing you need to know is that he runs a crisis pregnancy center in Fort Worth, right between Harris Methodist Hospital and Planned Parenthood.

When he’s in the grocery store, or out in public, and he sees a mother - maybe she’s being harassed by her children, maybe she has the look of sleepless nights in her eyes. Maybe she is young and unmarried, and pregnant.

He hands her his business card.

And they read - “Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature. God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation...
What on God’ good earth is more glorious than this:
to be a Mother.”

You can imagine what that must be like. To be feeling like the most unappreciated person in the world, to be approached by a man in a wheelchair who lets you know that you are the most important person in the world because you cooperate with God in His most important task of bringing life to the world.

That’s the first message that I want to bring to you this morning.

That mothers are the most important people on earth.

They have been granted the greatest honor that a human being can ever receive - that of cooperating with God in the new life He gives, to be the workshop for the creation of souls.

It is a message that we need to hear, and not only on Mother’s Day. We need to hear it because motherhood is under attack in our society and culture.

We need to hear that Mothers are the most important people, because we deny it so often. When we think of success, we think about having success in business or politics, or popularity or status. Certainly not about motherhood.

And our society certainly does not send this message to our girls.

They grow in the midst of divided loyalties. They are told constantly that the same opportunities are available to them as the men, and this is true, but the cost is high. They are told to get out there on the field with the boys and succeed.
The trouble is that our society has revoked the uniqueness of womanhood from women. But the Church teaches that there is great glory in the gift of womanhood - that women are the very bedrock of humanity, and this is even more true of mothers.

The Church teaches that though equal, man and woman are not the “same.” They are different, indeed complementary - and this is God’s plan.

Mother’s Day provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon the gifts given to all women - whether they are mothers or not.

And this, again, is message that the Church needs to remember.

It is important to hear when our culture has lost sight of this essential understanding. Our culture has become so bankrupt that now some modern feminists refer to pregnancy as a “disease.”

It was not so for the first feminists. They looked to an ability to vote as their ticket to solidifying their unique place in society. They saw women working intolerable hours in factories, getting married later and later, and being detached from their children.

Even more, they saw that many women were rejecting the gift of motherhood in the most foul way. In order to avoid the shame of unwed motherhood, many women, even in the mid to late 1800s were seeking abortions.

About this, the great suffragist Susan B. Anthony wrote:
“No matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh, thrice guilty is he who...drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime!”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton agreed, writing:
“When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”

They saw abortion for what it was, and is, - degrading to women and mothers and inimical to the life-giving gift that God has given women.

When we fast-forward to today, the results are these:

1 and 1/3 million abortions are performed every year in this country.

Since the beginning of this Iraq war - over 5 million. Many times over the number killed in this current conflict.

The basic truth is that we should be completely sick over this tragedy. Some day in the future, generations to come might look upon abortion like we have slavery - as a horrible injustice.

In this day and age, we have to remember the simple line:
“Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature.”

We must remember this so that we do not become apathetic towards life - life that is given by God in cooperation with mothers everywhere.

What is the work of every mother?

To nourish, to comfort, and to instruct.

To nourish.

It was that wonderful organization the La Leche League that reminded us in the 1950’s, when almost all babies in this country were bottle-fed, that part of a mother’s natural vocation is that of feeding her baby. It is such a part of who she is that it is built right into her body.

When so many were pushing for sameness between the sexes, it was this organization that recognized the God-given goodness that comes from breasts.

I don’t say this to be crass, but to say that it is quite amazing how over-sexualized we have become. What was at once viewed as the gift of God to babies everywhere has now been made almost pornographic. In all of this, we have denigrated a mother’s vocation to feed her children.

And then, with tv-dinners and Boston-Market, and now Central Market’s Cafe and a little place called “Dream Dinners,” we have all too often contracted this essential vocation of a mother.

I once dated a girl who boasted that the only things she knew how to cook were Mac and Cheese from a box and toast. I found her rather unattractive after that.

But, I would argue that it goes beyond food and milk.

It cuts to the heart of this problem of “sameness.”

How can we talk about womanhood and manhood in any recognizable fashion when there is no distinction between the two? How can the Church have any fruitful discussions about sex - when we have all-too-often forgotten what it really means to be created male and female?

You may find this notion rather sexist. Yet, I am serious when I say that we must recover a concept of food that goes beyond “just add water” if we are to recover sexual identity within our culture.

The simple point is this: Mothers - teach your daughters to cook - not so that they may be slaves to men, but so that they may fulfill the glory that God gives in motherhood.

To comfort!

One thing I have begun to realize in my 9-month tenure as a dad is that babies need comfort so that they can later become independent and bold.

Our little girl has been so nurtured and comforted that she is growing into a confident little 9 month old - perhaps she is a bit too confident.

Father Crary said last week that the root of the word comfort is the Latin word “fortis” meaning strong.

It is the same word that gives us the cardinal virtue of Fortitude, which is the most perfect form of strength - strength in adversity and suffering. It should not surprise us at all that children who grow up to be strong in suffering were comforted when they were younger - and the main source of comfort was to be found in their mothers.

What a great calling this is!

That mothers give strength to their children by comforting them!

We knew this growing up because our mothers had an ability to “kiss it and make it better.” I wondered about this when I a bit older - what power there was in a simple peck on a bruise - but I didn’t understand it until I understood that strength comes from comforting affection.

And God knows this. He knows that the way to generate perseverance and fortitude is through comforting love. This is why the great saints have had the courage to face their struggles - that they knew the comfort which is to be found in God - that they had become enthralled by His love.

My sisters - think upon the power that comes from the comfort you can give to your children - whether young or old.

The last thing that mothers have to offer us is instruction.

What I mean by that is not that mothers primarily teach in an academic sense, or even that they primarily teach morality to their children, though these are true.

No, mother primarily teach children the most important lesson they have to learn.
And that lesson is love.

Mothers teach by example through self-sacrifice, through self-donation. By making the simple sacrifices - they teach love.

The kitchen floor won’t return in twenty years to thank you for cleaning it.

The employer in twenty years probably won’t send you so much as a birthday card.

But, children return constantly to thank their mothers for loving them and caring for them.

The reason they give this thanks is that through the sacrifice of their mothers, they learned what it means to be people of love.

These three activities in the lives of mothers - nourishment, comfort, and instruction - are the ingredients of saints - holy people made separate for a holy task. Mothers make saints.

In the end, what God will make clear is that the most important person of all, in the history of the world, was a mother.

She was a mother who fed and nourished her son, so that he might feed the world.

She was a mother who comforted her son, so that he would be strong in the face of suffering.

She was a mother who instructed her son - who taught him the value of self-sacrifice, of self-donation for the sake of love.

The most important person of all will be, not a President, not a philosopher, not a scientist, not a business executive, but a mother - the mother of all Christians, the mother of the Church, and the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

For when Jesus feeds us His body and blood, he feeds us with a body and blood given to Him by His mother.

The Church teaches this clearly - that his humanity comes straight from the body of Mary.

When Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, He knows the power of this comfort, because His the same child that was comforted by His mother. By her comfort, she made him a son fit for the battle, ready to suffer and even die for the sins of the world.

When Jesus gives His life in this way, He does so emboldened by the sacrifice of a mother who sacrifices and gave herself to Him.

Yes, it will be revealed.

The most important person in the world is a mother.

Thanks be to God.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.


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