6th Sunday of Easter Year A / Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day! Like many of you, over the past several days, I have been thinking a lot about what to get my mom for Mother’s Day. As I was dreading the reality that I might actually have to go shopping, it dawned on me that perhaps I have already given her the best gift possible in which case there really is no purpose in getting her a gift this year. You see every time I meet someone and they discover that I have 5 brothers and 5 sisters the attention turns away from me and people say “your mom must be a saint.” Of course, I agree, my mom is really a living saint, but I think it is about time I get a little credit for making her a saint. And if I have made her a saint, what better gift can I give her? I might as well stop while I am ahead.

You see today’s gospel reading falls right in the middle of the Last Supper. Jesus is there with His disciples, about to institute the Eucharist, St. Thomas has just asked Jesus where He is going and how they can follow Him, and then Jesus warns His disciples that He is about to depart. He is about to depart so that He can open the gates of heaven to bring those who listen to His word into eternal life. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us that if we love Him, we will keep His word. In other words, if you and I want to enter into eternal life, we need to hear His word and carry it out.

It sounds so simple, but we live in a world full of distractions and so it begs the question, how in today’s modern society are we supposed to hear God’s word and keep it with all of the distractions around us? I think the first thing to recognize is that “there is no such thing as God’s Word floating around outside the Church – rather, it is always transmitted in the Church and through her.”[1] While Jesus is no longer physically walking in this world with us, He did leave us a guide in the Catholic Church.

Let’s fast forward the story just a little bit to just before He ascended into heaven, the feast that we will celebrate next Sunday. He gathered St. Peter and He said to Him, “you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”[2] That Church, the Catholic Church, founded by Jesus Christ, continues to feed us today through the Holy Eucharist, through the Word of God contained in Sacred Scripture and through the teachings of the bishops in union with the Pope.

My friends, the Catholic Church is our mother and just as mothers sometimes have to put unpopular limits on their children and have to teach them truths that their children do not necessarily want to follow, so too our Church must teach truths that are unpopular and call us to a way of life, that will not always be easy. Yet, even when we don’t see it, like all good mothers, our spiritual mother the Church only challenges us the way she does because she knows it is what is best for us. Jesus left us a Church as our guide. He left us the Church as our spiritual mother to keep us on that narrow path to eternal life. How do we hear God’s word and follow it? It’s simple. If we stay in the Church, following her guidance and living out the true Christian way, we can be assured of remaining in God’s love and hold out hope for our salvation.

Now I’ll won’t tell you all the stories of my childhood and I do love my mother. If she were here, I think she would admit that growing up under the watchful eye of my mother was not easy. And I may have had many disagreements with her while growing up; accusing her of being unpopular, out of touch with reality, and not even knowing what she was talking about. It was under her watchful eye and her unwillingness to waver in what was best for me, that helped form me into the man I am today. Likewise, living with our spiritual mother the Church can be hard, but we can never forget, that “love demands effort and a personal commitment to the will of God.”[3]

You see regardless of how hard it was at times growing up with my mom, she was always there to be my mom and like most of you, I love her and I’m not afraid to tell the world how great she is, even if I take credit for making her a saint. And if she were to come under attack, I would be the first one there to defend her. And if we love our own mothers enough to tell the world about how great she is and to be ready to defend her if needed, shouldn’t we do the same with our spiritual mother the Church?

I think today’s gospel and our celebration of Mother’s Day, gives us pause to ask ourselves two important questions. First, in a world that is not afraid to attack the Catholic Church as unpopular and out of touch with society, do we stand up and defend our Mother the Church even when others attack her? Secondly, do we take the opportunity to tell the world about our Mother the Church? Afterall, we know there are countless people in our lives who need to hear Christ’s gospel message. Countless people, including each of us who need that guide to keep us on the path to heaven. Only Christ can lead us to heaven and so we need that guidance and the protection of our spiritual Mother, the Church to lead us to heaven.

We are so blessed to have a mother in the Church who watches out for us even when it is unpopular, but there are many people who do not know the love of that spiritual mother and so we must go out and spread that message of Christ’s resurrection and the gift of our mother, the Church. My friends, find your safety in the Church. Bring others to the protection of our Mother the Church. Come to your mother Church, have life and have it abundantly.

[1] Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal.Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. pg. 23

[2] Matthew 16:18

[3] Wojtyla, Karol. The Meaning of Vocation. United States: Scepter Publishers, 1997. pg 20

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