Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Powerful, Natural Bond Between A Mother And Her Child

(Sixth Sunday of Easter (B): This homily was given on May 13, 2012 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read John 15: 9-17.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Sixth Sunday of Easter 2012]

I remember a conversation I had a couple of years ago with a young mother from the parish.  She was telling me that, when she was pregnant with her second child, she went to see her doctor because she was convinced there was something wrong with her baby.  She wasn’t experiencing any glaring symptoms; it was just a feeling—a sense—she had.

The doctor probably thought she was overreacting, but he decided to order some of the standard, pre-natal tests for her anyway—all of which showed nothing.

But the woman wasn’t satisfied.  She kept pressing the physician.  Finally he ordered a specialized test, and, sure enough, they discovered that the baby had severely enlarged kidneys.

The doctor then asked the woman if she would consider an abortion.  At that point the baby was already five months old.  The woman told me she was shocked to find out that abortion was an option that late in a pregnancy (I told her that it’s legal in our country for all nine months—and it has been since 1973.)

To her credit, she got upset with the doctor and told him, “No, I would never do that!”

And, happily, four months later, she delivered a healthy baby girl into the world—and had her baptized here at St. Pius!

I tell this story on this Mother’s Day, not to focus on the abortion part of it (although that is certainly noteworthy!); rather, I tell this story because it illustrates in a powerful way how deep the natural bond is between a mother and her child—even when that child is still in the womb!


This young mother discerned that there was something wrong with her baby—even though all the initial tests said otherwise!

She knew it intuitively!

By the way, how can people in the pro-choice movement have the audacity to maintain that abortion does not harm women?

What a lie!!!

Even if the mother doesn’t want the child, this bond which is there by natureby God’s design—gets violently severed!

And that has to hurt emotionally and spiritually, unless the mother is hard-hearted or in total denial.

This is why Rachel’s Vineyard retreats and other such events are so important and such a blessing: they help to heal that gaping wound in post-abortive women.

Praise God.

(I should add that if you want more information on these retreats (or know someone who might), go to our new parish website and consult our parish handbook.)

The love that Jesus describes in today’s gospel text from John 15 is the kind of love that many of us were blessed to experience through our mothers, even before we were born.  This is real love—the love of Jesus himself—the love he witnessed to in his own earthly life, and especially in his passion and death.

Notice that Jesus says here, “Love one another as I love you.”  That’s a very important qualifying phrase at the end of the sentence: “as I love you.”  In today’s world, as we all know, love means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  For some, sad to say, it’s just become a synonym for sex.  

St. Thomas Aquinas defined love based on Jesus’ teaching here in John 15 and other places in the New Testament.  Aquinas said that to love is to desire the good for another person—which definitely describes Jesus’ attitude toward us.  Jesus came to this earth, and suffered and died on that cross, because he desired the good—the ultimate good—for every human being, namely, eternal life!

In this regard, his love was absolutely, positively selfless.  All real love is.  He suffered and died for us, not for himself.  In fact, Jesus never thought of himself first.

Neither do good mothers.  Good mothers always put the needs of their children before their own.

This is what motivated that young mother to continue to press her doctor about the condition of her unborn child.  She didn’t care if he thought she was crazy; her one and only concern was for the welfare of her daughter in the womb!

Jesus’ love was also patient.  Just think of how patient he had to be—and was—with his own apostles.

Good mothers are also patient.  Mine sure was with me—and I know I tried her patience a lot!

Jesus’ love was also forgiving: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Good mothers will often forgive their children when almost nobody else will.

I think this is one reason, incidentally, why we refer to the Church as our “Mother”.  It’s because through the sacrament of Confession she will forgive us for anything.  Literally, anything!

And, above all else, Jesus’ love was self-sacrificial.  As we heard him say in today’s gospel, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  The best visual definition of love is the one hanging on the back wall of our sanctuary: the cross!

Now I haven’t done a scientific survey on this, but every mother I’ve ever talked to about this issue has told me in no uncertain terms that she would be willing to die for her children if she had to.

No questions asked.

And I believe these women. 

But this really should not surprise us—given that very special bond that a mother has with her child by natureby God’s design—even before birth.

Now it’s true—not every mother does in fact love her children with the selfless, patient, forgiving, self-sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.  For those mothers we pray a prayer of petition at this Mass: a prayer that they will allow Jesus Christ into their hearts and experience a real transformation in their lives, both for their own sakes and for the sake of their children.

But for the rest—for those mothers, living and deceased, who have faithfully witnessed to Christ’s love in their motherhood—we, your children, offer a special prayer of thanksgiving at this Mass: We thank the Lord from the bottom of our hearts for your presence in our lives, and we ask Almighty God to reward you—here and in eternity—for all you have done for us.