Why do we honour our mother? It’s because a mother is like God to us: in certain ways, a mother is more like God to us than any other vocation.
How? Firstly, it’s because without our mum we would not exist. Just as without God, we are nothing, we don’t exist, so without out mum, we would not exist. And our fundamental experience of life, our early years, are existentially filled by the presence of our mum. This is why, when we lose our mum, it’s a terribly painful experience – part of my being feels gone, because that’s sort of true. One of the authors of my very being, who nourished and cared for my being is gone – and no one on earth can fill it, not even my dad – because mums initiate us into existence in a way a dad never can.
Which brings us to a second reason they are like God to us: they work and care for us unceasingly. It’s true this care is more obvious when we are younger – our uniform, our food, our haircut, our attendance at school – anything we have when we are young we have, in part, because our mum provided it for us. But, just like God, it’s interesting to note that mums don’t stop caring and working for us once we are 18. I’m well over 18, and my mum still works to find exactly what I need for Christmas or my birthday. And somehow, without me saying anything, she knows exactly what I need.
Which brings us to a third reason mums are like God: in many ways, they know us better than ourselves. When my mum gives me my socks, I often haven’t even realised I need them – but as soon as I get them I realise, oh yeah, I needed these. The work of mums is like the work of God: long before we are awake, whether we think of them or not, mum and God are serving for us. Which brings us to a final reason mums resemble God: mum always loves me. Generally there is no shortage of suffering a mum is not willing to undergo for us. This was the point of Holy Week: to see to what point God is willing to suffer for us.
All of which underlines why God is so good. God is not merely like a mum : the goodness we see in our mum is magnified infinitely and perfectly in God. This is why it is so wonderful to be a Christian. When we hear in the Gospel what God the Father is like, with generous and secure room for everyone, this reminds us of the maternal images the Father’s tenderness – a mother with a generous and secure womb for all. We all came from the womb of God: it is there, in the depths of the Trinity, that every human being aches to return.
This is also why we refer to the Church as she and not it. As we see in the first two readings, the Church is not an ‘it’, a thing, which I can shape to suit the latest ideologies, or even the best intentions of my narrow, fallen heart. The Church is always a she, our mother, who births us into new life, teaches us right and wrong, and feeds and heals us with the sacraments. Just as without our earthly mother we cannot enter into earthly life, so without the Church we cannot enter into eternal life. As Jesus says today: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me. This is why we hold the Church in honour and respect: not because bishops have cool hats, but because she is our mother, and because God himself has such a high regard for her that he himself lays down his life for her. This is what we are agreeing to when we recieve Holy Communion: saying yes not only to Jesus, but to the Church – the Body of Christ.
Let us in this Eucharist then say yes to Jesus and his Bride. Let us say to him Jesus, thank you for this love of the Father for me. There is nothing good in my life which did not first come as an undeserved gift from you. Please help me love you back with all my strength in my daily life, just as you do to me. Amen.