As I stated, I was in the pulpit Sunday and next week while our pastor takes some R&R. So I thought I would share this week’s words.
My prayer request is the same as the psalmist, May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:4).
Pray the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart were indeed pleasing in His sight today and will be next Sundays. It was especially challenging this week as I tried to meld a Mother’s Day message with this week’s non-Mother’s Day passages.
If you happen to be in the Finger Lakes area of New York, I welcome you to join us at 9 a.m. at West Fayette Presbyterian Church on Route 336 just east of Route 96A and a few miles south of Geneva and north of Sampson State Park. I invite you not to listen to the guy in the pulpit, but to enjoy the fellowship of the little church with the big heart.
Here is this week’s words …
Happy Mother’s Day!
First, a little story.
Baby Bear goes downstairs and sits in his small chair at the table. He looks into his small bowl. It is empty. “Who’s been eating my porridge?” he squeaks.
Papa Bear arrives at the big table and sits in his big chair. He looks into his big bowl and it is also empty. “Who’s been eating my porridge?” he roars.
Momma Bear puts her head through the serving hatch from the kitchen and yells, “For Pete’s sake, how many times do we have to go through this? It was Momma Bear who got up first. It was Momma Bear who woke everyone in the house. It was Momma Bear who made the coffee. It was Momma Bear who unloaded the dishwasher from last night and put everything away. It was Momma Bear who went out in the cold early morning air to fetch the newspaper. It was Momma Bear who set the table. It was Momma Bear who put the cat out, cleaned the litter box and filled the cat’s water and food dish. And now you’ve decided to drag your sorry bear-butts downstairs, and grace Momma Bear’s kitchen with your grumpy presence?
“Listen good, ’cause I’m only going to say this one more time … ‘I HAVEN’T MADE THE PORRIDGE YET!’”
Happy Mother’s Day!
Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s focus on why we’re here, looking into the words from Scripture. Admittedly, our readings don’t really have a lot to do about mothers, but I’ll try to tie them together with “What Mary saw …”
One of the tragedies of the Reformation, in my humble opinion, is the diminution of Mary. The Protestant culture has reduced her to a bit player. I can understand why. Early Christian and Catholic tradition placed — and often places — a more relevant role for the mother of Jesus, almost to the point where they venerate her as a co-mediatrix in the salvific redemption of Jesus.
I never saw her that way, but rather a woman of immense faith. And I always saw Jesus as having a special bond with this woman called Mother.
There isn’t much scripturally about Mary. Luke tells us the most about her, and even that is fragmented. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (1:28). “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled” (1:38).
And they [the shepherds] came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart (2:16-19).
And the Simeon story (2:25-35) which concludes with the admonition to Mary, Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also.
And I can imagine the worry in Joseph and Mary when they “lost” Jesus at the temple when He was 12 (42-51) — just think back when your young one decided to play hide and seek in the racks at Walmart. His mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
The next two references come from John. Remember the story at Cana? (2:2-11)
I have this twisted picture in my mind of Mary telling Jesus to do something to help the bridal couple in her stereotyped Yiddish voice. And I can see her telling the stewards to listen to her Son, “… because He’s someone special.”
Despite protestation this was not the right time, Jesus indeed did start His public ministry at that wedding by turning ordinary water into exquisite wine. A mother’s plea.
We could feel her pain as she stood by the cross watching her Son die (19:25-27). A mother’s pain.
Mother’s Day didn’t exist back then, but had it, I can see Jesus in His woodshop knocking out these little trinkets for His Mom. I can see Him picking poseys along the trails of Israel for a bouquet for Mom. I can see Jesus making breakfast in bed for His Mom … porridge without the bacon or sausage. In His later years, Jesus would probably have sent a card by donkey express.
There was a relationship … a bond that doesn’t need scriptural endorsement. Jesus cared. His last act was to make sure she would be taken care of.
It’s interesting to note, there is no direct scriptural evidence Jesus ever appeared to Mary, His mother, after the Resurrection. There is tradition that says Jesus did indeed appear to Mary His mother first, dating back to fourth century Ambrose. The tradition of a prior apparition has continued from the fifth century poet Sedulius. The tradition is hardly apostolic, and does not seem to have been held with any great clarity or zeal until the early medieval period. However, from the medieval period forward, saints and theologians are nearly unanimous in affirming a prior apparition to our Lady. Dom Prosper Gueranger cites numerous liturgical prayers and hymns (especially of the East) which affirm the tradition. An impressive number of saints hold the tradition including Anselm, Albert the Great, Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Avila and John Paul II. There is a nearly unanimous consensus among that faithful Christ our Lord appeared first to His Mother and then to Mary Magdalene.
Of course, the Gospels do not relate the apparition made by Jesus to His Mother, while visits with the others are fully described. Could that be because of the intent of the New Testament?
The apparitions were intended as proof of the Resurrection. Mary His Mother had no need of such a visit. The Mother of God had a firm and unshakable faith in the Resurrection, and this faith did not waver on that first Holy Saturday. Mary already knew and believed her Son would rise, she had no need to see. Or, as John would say in 20:29, Blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.
This would explain why the Mother was not present at the tomb. She already knew He had risen. She did not know by sight, but by her unshakable faith. Of course Mary would not accompany the other women, she knew already the body would no longer be there!
That’s what Mary saw in her Son … the fulfillment of salvation as told in our readings today.
In our first reading, Peter recognized this divine love was not just for the Jews of the time, but for all. The takeaway is God was and is at work through the Spirit to tear down ethnic and social barriers so His very Word could and can be heard. This Word transforms our character — just like the apostles — to lead us to share that message of divine love, even with those outside our comfort zone.
Our second reading re-affirms those words, noting those who believe Jesus is the Son of God overcomes the world with Him. All, except believers in Christ, are enslaved in some respect to the customs, opinions or interests of the world. Faith breaks that enslavement. It is the cause of victory, the means, the instrument, the spiritual armor by which we overcome. The real Christian overcomes the world by faith and grace. He sees, in and by the life and conduct of the Lord Jesus on earth, how this world is to be renounced and overcome by looking beyond it with eye toward heaven. We must all, after Christ’s example, overcome the world, or it will overcome us to our ruin.
And our Gospel points out the simplest command, Love one another.
Though reference to love has been completely absent in verses 1-8, the repeated reference to it now (five times as verb or noun in verse 9 alone; 11 times in the lesson as a whole) clearly gives love the center stage.
Love is to be seen above all in the love of the Father as shown in the love of the Son. Our thoughts are intentionally directed back to the announcement of the depth of God’s love for the world as evidenced in the giving of the Son. God so loved… (3:16).
One of those important words in the first section (9-12) is a simple Greek word kathos variously translated as “so,” “as” or “just as”. In the original this word essentially frames the whole section. Just as the Father has loved Me … (9) … just as I have loved you (12). “Just as” — kathos — is a key motif in John’s theology (31 times in the gospel) for what it reveals about the mutual relationship of Father, Son and disciple community. As the Father has loved, so the Son loves. The Son’s love imitates and mirrors the Father’s love. As the Son loved, so the disciple community loves. To “abide in the Son’s love” is to know oneself as abiding in that same love which originates in the relationship of Father and Son.
Jesus’ words make it clear the power to respond to His command to love one another comes from Jesus’ own prior love and calling: I have called you … I have chosen you … I have appointed you …
Jesus came so we might experience an overflowing life (John 10:10).
That’s what Mary the Mother saw. She tells us on this Mother’s Day, “Listen to my Son … because He’s someone special.”
And let the faithful say, Amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.