Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Faithfulness of a Mother’s Love

(Fourth Sunday of Easter (C): This homily was given on May 12, 2019 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Acts 13:14, 43-52; Psalm 100; Revelation 7:9-14; John 10: 27-30.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Fourth Sunday of Easter 2019]

“Patient dead.  Mother prayed.  Patient came back to life.”  Those words were written by the first doctor who treated 14-year-old John Smith on January 19, 2015—the day he fell through the ice on a frozen lake near his home in St. Charles, Missouri.  By the time the first responders located John and pulled him out of the icy water, he wasn’t breathing, had no pulse, and had been without oxygen for a full 15 minutes.  They immediately started CPR and took him to the local hospital, where doctors and medical personnel continued to work on him feverishly for 43 more minutes—with no response.  The medical team finally gave up, and called in John’s adoptive mother, Joyce, so that she could pay her final respects to her son before they officially declared him dead. 

But Joyce Smith was not ready to give up hope for her son’s recovery!  And so she began to pray over his lifeless body—in a loud voice that could be heard throughout the emergency room of the hospital.  She doesn’t remember her entire prayer that day, but she does recall saying these words to God: “Please send your Holy Spirit to save my son!”

Suddenly, without any further medical intervention, the boy’s heart monitor began to register a pulse—which put him on the road to what has become a full and complete recovery.

John’s miraculous story is the subject of the recently-released film, Breakthrough, which is in theaters now.  I highly recommend it, since it’s a beautiful testimony to the power of prayer, and to the faithfulness of a mother’s love.

The reason I mention it in my homily today is primarily because of that last point. It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and this story witnesses in a powerful way to the faithfulness of a mother’s love—a good mother’s love.  The love of a good mother is not conditional; it does not depend on circumstances.  The love of a good mother is consistent and hopeful and selfless.  Some of us, unfortunately, might not have experienced that kind of love from our moms, but thankfully many of us have.  We should praise God today for that.

This kind of love was certainly present in Joyce Smith.  Here I think it’s important to note that even after John began to register a pulse in the ER, most of the medical personnel involved in his case were not very hopeful.  Neither was John’s adoptive father.  They all believed that even if John did somehow manage to survive this ordeal, his quality of life would be extremely poor—since he had been deprived of oxygen for so long and had probably experienced severe brain damage in the process.

Only Joyce persevered in her hope for a complete recovery.  Only she continued to believe that a positive outcome was possible.  She never gave up!  She had the kind of determination and perseverance that Paul and Barnabas exhibited in today’s first reading.  There we were told that these two apostles went into the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia on two consecutive sabbaths, where they proclaimed the gospel message with clarity and conviction.  But not everybody liked what they heard on those two occasions—and these opponents of the apostles were definitely not quiet in their opposition.  As the Bible puts it, “They were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.”  Ultimately they threw the two apostles out of town.  But notice that Paul and Barnabas did not throw in the towel!  They didn’t give up their mission to preach and teach in the name of Christ.  They didn’t stop doing what they believed God wanted them to do.

They simply shook the dust of Antioch in Pisidia off their feet, and took the gospel message to the next town. And they did it joyfully, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In her faithful love for her son, Joyce Smith (like Paul and Barnabas) refused to give up.  Yet her love was not perfect—as you’ll find out if you go to see the movie Breakthrough.  But that should not surprise us, since no earthly mother (however good she might be) loves her children with a perfect love. However the good news is that we do have a Mother in heaven who does love us in that way!  Regardless of what our earthly mother is or was like, our heavenly mother Mary loves us unconditionally and with a perfect faithfulness, always praying for us to grow closer to Jesus.  She never gives up on us or on any one of her children—even when they’re in the state of mortal sin and as dead spiritually as John Smith was dead physically. 

Some people would probably say that Mary’s faithful love for her children (that is to say, for all of us) is like Joyce Smith’s faithful love for her son John—but that would be wrong.  It’s actually Joyce’s imperfectly-faithful love for John that’s a bit like Mary’s perfectly-faithful love for us.  Mary’s love is the standard!  Her love is the perfect standard by which every earthly mother’s imperfect love is measured.  So let’s conclude now by seeking Mary’s prayers for all earthly moms (especially all the moms here present): that they will love their children in the future more like Mary loves her children always.  And so for all mothers we pray, “Hail, Mary …”