Mothering Sunday is likely to be difficult for many this year. This is the second year we are in lockdown and just popping round to mum’s house with a bunch of flowers is completely out of reach for those who don’t live close to their mothers. It is always a complicated festival as adverts for cards and flowers and gifts are hard on those who wanted children but didn’t have them or those who have difficult relationships with their mothers. In 2021 there will be many households where mum died of Covid and there is no one to send flowers and a card to. It will be a first for many and there will be grief.
For others the celebration of Mother Church is equally difficult. We know that the church struggles with issues around sexuality but in 2021 it has been made clear that it also struggles with racism. Along with the stance that some churches take on women’s ministry, we have a church that does not welcome everyone, however much we want to believe it does.
That is uncomfortable but we cannot heal what we cannot name.
As a mother I can stay with all honesty that motherhood is not easy. For all those mothers who have homeschooled this past year I salute you. A tough gig got so much harder. Mothering is not all hearts and flowers however nice it is to get chocolates, flowers, a card and maybe a nice bottle of rose for Mothering Sunday (I can hope they are reading this!)
This week in our gospel we see one of the most harrowing images of the cost of motherhood. Mary the mother of Jesus is at the foot of the cross. The Mary that we saw on our Christmas cards as a young woman with her new baby is alone but for three friends. She watches her son dying. The son she gave birth to, nurtured as a toddler, raised as a child and was angry with as an adult is dying slowly. What can she do? She can’t make this better. All she can do is be there. That takes courage.
We live in a world that is full of words yet sometimes the most powerful thing we can do is be present, wordless. To witness.
As Christians we may be moved to pray yet the words won’t come. If the pain is too great, then words fall silent. Perhaps all we can do is hold our hands in a gesture of prayer, or just want to pray and hope that is enough.
As Jesus is dying he sees his mother and his compassion overcomes his pain and he names her new son his friend the beloved disciple. If we believe that Jesus is both fully human and fully God, we see in this act God’s loving kindness and justice and mercy in the words of Jesus. That is what our God is like. God sees us. God is with us even in times where words cannot do justice to the pain that is felt.
We face the reality of what happens next over Easter. The pain of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Frightened women at the tomb on Easter morning and the joy at the resurrection.
Our God is a God of surprises and Easter Sunday is coming but until then we are seen and we are loved.
Gospel Reading John 19.25b-27
Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.