Treat your mother like a queen

May 10, 2009

Readings: AA 9.26-31; Ps. 22; 1 Jn. 3.18-24; Jn. 15.1-8

Happy Mother's Day. I hope each household treats their mother like a queen on this special day. Where would anyone of us be without the life and love, the patience and prayers, and wisdom which our mothers have provided? Without our mothers, we would not be here physically. Without our mothers, probably we would have suffered much more emotionally and spiritually. There is no perfect mother. But as the saying goes, "since God could not be everywhere, God created mothers." Thank God for your mother, living on earth or living in heaven.

The Bible repeatedly refers to God in the masculine gender. In the Greek, God is the masculine "theos" and in Latin, the masculine "deus." Jesus repeatedly calls God his Father. Even in today's gospel, Jesus teaches, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower." And in all three Synoptic gospels, Jesus teaches us to pray beginning with these words, "Our Father, who art in heaven..."

But God has no body; God is pure spirit. God has no gender; God is neither male nor female. God is a person; he is not some mechanical, electronic, or inanimate force. God is a person, and in the Scripture's desire to teach us that God is a person, the Scripture uses words and images that we understand. We see people as either male or female. To help us to envision God as a person, we call God, "Father." But God has no gender, and it belittles God to describe him as either male or female in the sense that each of us is either male or female. God as Father serves as an analogy; an analogy uses terms that we can grasp and applies them to realities that we cannot grasp.

In the Old Testament, God describes his/her care for us sometimes in feminine ways. The author of Deuteronomy writes, "As an eagle incites her nestlings forth, by hovering over her brood, so God spreads his wings to receive Israel, and he will bear them up on his wings." (Deut. 32.11) The prophet Isaiah writes that God intended that the city of Jerusalem would be like a mother. "Oh that you might suck fully of the milk of her comfort. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and comforted in her lap." And in the next sentence, God describes his behavior, "As a mother comforts her son, so I will comfort you." (Is. 66.13) The virtue of wisdom is always described in a feminine form: "For in her is a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, subtle, agile, clear, certain, firm, secure, tranquil." (Wisdom 7.23) Also, "I pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her." (Wisdom 7.7)

Applying this imagery to the women in our lives, when we see them, we should look for the image of God in them. Men, let's try to see and appreciate in women the unique goodness and beauty with which God has graced women. We men know that women oftentimes look at things very differently than we men do. Let's pause and appreciate women's gifts. Women's particular gifts come from God. Our manly gifts come from God too, and we might think it is very easy to see our manly gifts! Let's ponder and perceive the gifts from God that the women in our lives manifest. Children, the fourth of the Ten Commandments says, "Honor your father and your mother." The same book of Deuteronomy adds, "Honor your father and mother so that it might go well with you in the land the Lord is giving you." (Deut. 5.16) In confession, I oftentimes ask young children, "Who is older, you or your parents?" The child pauses, and laughs, and replies, "My parents are older!" I add, "then obey your parents. They are older, wiser, and more experienced than you are. Make your home a happier home by obeying your parents."

A few personal notes about my mother. My dad was a good man, but my mother was a very, very good woman. If my mother is not in heaven, nobody is! As far as achieving well, she would instruct us children: "God wants your best. If you are an A student, work for an A. If you are a C student, thank God for your C." If we failed at anything, she would tell us children, "keep trying to do your best. God is impressed that you keep trying." As for money, my dad worried, but my mother made sure we had the proper food and clothing. As for paying bills, our family constantly robbed Peter to pay Paul. My mother was blessed with great faith in St. Paul's phrase "things will work out for those who believe." What I thought showed my mother's great wisdom was her saying to me: "Vincent, this is a house full of girls. You have three older and three younger sisters. This is no place for a boy to grow up. So do your chores, then go outside and play ball."

Mothers, from the bottom of my heart and soul, I thank God for you all. Husbands and children, I trust that each of you feels the same way. Today and everyday, let's speak it and show it: the respect and gratitude which we have for our mothers.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley