JESUS' LOVE IS LIKE THAT OF A MOTHER - REV. JOSEPH ALSAY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Excerpts of a Sermon Delivered
by the Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 9th, 2021
Acts 10:44-48 & John 15:9-17
“Jesus’ Love is Like That of a Mother”
I heard a story about a family of sharecroppers living in Georgia during the 1950s. The family was very poor and there just wasn’t money for extras. One year the family had a bumper crop and with the money they had left over they decided to buy something for their home. After looking through the mail order catalogue they decided to order a mirror. When it arrived, they all took turns looking at their reflection. The youngest son who had been badly burned in a fire when he was a baby looked into the mirror and then looked over at his mother.
“Ma,” he said, “you knew I was this ugly and yet you still loved me all these years.”
The child may have been burned, but he was still beautiful in the mother’s eyes.
Sometimes it is difficult to relate Mother’s Day to the assigned readings for the Sunday.
That is not the case this year.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Does it surprise you to hear the words “love” and “commandment” together so much in these sentences?
I don’t think it should. In the major commitments of our lives, love is an obligation we take on which must push us on even when emotional love will not.
I think when you take marriage vows--you promise to do the hard work that marriage requires and not just expect to reap the benefits. For many people, when the going gets tough they get out. Don’t hear me wrong, I’m not endorsing staying in an abusive relationship. But a mushy, sentimental view of marriage can’t hold up over the long haul.
And then we come to mothers, and fathers for that matter, but mothers have a special bond with the children who are literally bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. But it is not all sitting in the rocking chair cuddling with a baby, or making chocolate chip cookies for your child’s class at school, or beaming with pride at graduations and weddings. Being a mother means saying “no” when other mothers are saying “yes” sometimes. It means not automatically siding with your child who complains about how mean the teacher is. It means dusting your child off from a painful experience and giving a gentle prod to get back in the action and try again.
Later on, being a mother may mean having to forgive harsh words said in anger, foolish actions taken to assert independence, choices which you know will end up poorly. It may mean having to let your child have the humiliating and dangerous experience of spending a night in jail or going to rehab because you would no longer enable a habit.
It may mean dealing with alienation that you can do absolutely nothing about. It might be seeing your son participating in a riot and going out and grabbing him by the ear and taking him home. That might not be the way you or I would do it, but it is an example of a mother taking a difficult action to show love for her child.
This is what true love is. It’s going to be there through thick and thin, through good days and bad, through devotion and rejection.
In our gospel reading for today, Jesus speaks to us about tenacious love ~ love that will not let you go. “Remain in my love”, Jesus says, keep my commandments and abide in my love.
If we were to think of one expression to capture the spirit of most mothers it would be … tenacious love. Tenacious is a wonderful word that captures a desire to retain, preserve, protect, and hold together. In fact, we have coined the term “Grizzly Mother” or “Tiger Moms.”
Our Lord calls all of us to precisely that kind of determination as his baptized followers. We are all to be mother-like in our faithfulness, fortitude, and determination to make a difference.
Rudyard Kipling captured this image of tenacious love in this wonderful poem …
If I were hanged on the highest hill, I know whose love would follow me still.
Mother of mine. Mother of mine.
If I were drowned in the deepest sea, I know whose tears would come down to me.
Mother of mine, Mother of mine.
If I were damned by body and soul, I know whose prayers would make me whole.
Mother of mine, mother of mine.
On this Sunday when our Gospel lesson encourages us to think about love and obedience, how appropriate that we are also joining with people throughout this nation to give thanks for our mothers. No one casts a longer shadow across your life and mine than our mother and whether our mother is alive and sharing life with us or is with the Lord in heaven, today is our day to remember how blessed we have been by our mothers or whoever it is that played a formative, mothering role in our lives.
~Fr. Joseph C. Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.