Sunday, May 08, 2011

‘Awareness’ and Motherhood

(Third Sunday of Easter (A): This homily was given on May 8, 2011 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Luke 24: 13-35.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Third Sunday of Easter 2011]


It’s what the disciples lacked, but desperately needed. I’m talking here specifically about the two disciples we heard about in today’s gospel reading, who met the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus on Easter Sunday. They lacked awareness, first of all, that it was Jesus himself who was walking with them. They thought they had met up with a Passover visitor to Jerusalem who was completely out of touch with the local news: “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

But they also lacked awareness of some other things—some other very important things. For example, they were not aware of the prophecies of what we now call the Old Testament, and how these prophecies related to what they had seen and heard during the previous week. And so Jesus set them straight. As St. Luke tells us, “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.” (By the way, that had to be a really long homily that Jesus gave them. So don’t complain about the length of mine!)

Obviously they were also unaware of the fact that the true Messiah—the one God had chosen for his people—was to be a suffering Messiah, and not a powerful king like David, who had ruled the nation of Israel many years before. Thus these men were unaware of the necessity of the cross in God’s plan of salvation: that the Messiah had to suffer and die to save us from sin and eternal death. “Oh, how foolish you are!’ Jesus said to them, ‘How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter his glory?”

Throughout the course of the day they spent with Jesus, the awareness of these two disciples increased, until it finally became complete when Jesus did for them what he had done for his apostles at the Last Supper a few days earlier: he fed them with the Eucharist! “And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.”

Awareness. It’s what Cleopas and his friend needed—and received—from our Lord on the first Easter Sunday. It’s also what every child needs—and receives—from his or her mother (if that mother is fulfilling her vocation well). On this Mother’s Day, that’s a truth that needs to be both noted and emphasized. This flows from a mother’s role as the “chief nurturer” of the family.

A good mother, for example, helps her children to be aware of their identity as children of God, created in his image and likeness. She thus helps her children to be aware of their intrinsic value as human beings. Let’s face it, our self-worth (or lack thereof) is, to a great extent, instilled in us at an early age by our mothers, since they’re usually with us the most!

A good mother also helps her children to become aware of the true meaning of life—if she herself knows it and is being faithful to it.

A good mother helps her children to be aware of their responsibilities to God, and to the members of their family, and to others.

A good mother helps her children grow in their awareness of the need they have to say they’re sorry.

A good mother helps her children to grow in their awareness of how to handle success and deal with failure.

She helps them to grow in their awareness of how to set the right priorities in life (presuming she has the right ones herself!).

And of course a good mother, if she’s Catholic, also helps her children to grow in their awareness of the need they have to pray, and attend Mass, and go to Confession, and put God first in their lives.

To the extent that you received awareness of these things from your earthly mother, thank God today. Thank him from the bottom of your heart—because not everyone is so blessed!

But even if your earthly mother failed you or hurt you in some serious way—even if she did not fulfill her vocation very well—fear not. You see, regardless of what your earthly mother was like, if you’re a baptized Catholic you DO have a mother who has not failed you and will never fail you—a mother who teaches awareness in all those areas I just mentioned. I’M TALKING HERE ABOUT HOLY MOTHER CHURCH! In fact, she teaches all these things even more clearly and consistently than our good earthly mothers do. The Church teaches us our identity as children of God; she teaches us that we are loved and valued by God beyond what we can even imagine. She teaches us the meaning of life; she helps us to become aware of our responsibilities to God, and to our brothers and sisters. She teaches us that we’re sinners who need to say we’re sorry; she teaches us how to handle success and deal with failure. And, of course, she teaches us the importance of prayer, and Mass, and Confession, and putting God first in our lives.

I recently read that Blessed John Paul II rarely mentioned his earthly mother in conversation or in writing. He spoke of his dad all the time, but not his mom. That’s probably because she died when he was just a small child. He never had the opportunity to get to know her in the same way that he was able to get to know his father, who had a very powerful impact on him during his youth.

But John Paul II did have Holy Mother Church in his life always—and she formed him pretty well, I would say (with the assistance, of course, of our Blessed Mother!).

So there’s always hope.

Lord, today we thank you for the many ways that our earthly mothers helped us to be aware of our identity, our value, and our call to live as your disciples. But most of all we thank you for giving us Holy Mother Church, through which we are born again to eternal life, and through which we receive the grace, the love and the knowledge we need to attain that heavenly goal. Amen.