The very first Mother’s Day I celebrated as a newly initiated mother was also the first Mother’s Day I spent without my own mother. You see, she had died of a heart attack the Sunday before.
I spent my first Mother’s Day with my infant son and my brothers closing out Mom’s apartment: sorting and tagging, going through drawers of old linen, newspaper clippings of recipes going back thirty years, I discovered she kept every letter I had sent her from college thirteen years earlier. It brought back memories: my mom earned the nickname “Baracuda,’ in her workplace. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, male coworkers would think nothing of insulting female coworkers, among other harassments. Mom would just return the favor and let them have it in front of the entire office.
I remember that she faithfully gave food and money to a homeless woman who lived under a bridge, and never forgot to bring something for her dog as well. Mom co-founded Cleveland “9-5” an organization that advocated for equal treatment of women and equal pay for equal work, in the workplace. Once she was interviewed why she fought so hard for women’s rights in the workplace. She replied, “so my daughter won’t have to go through what I went through.” My mother was never a huggy type, but I knew then and there that was her way of saying I love you. That this activism was her way of laying down her life for me, and my generation. Her fight to make the workplace a better place was an act of justice-love. It was a fight she was engaged in all her life, and as we see today, continues in our generation. We fight for justice on so many fronts because justice is the manifestation of love in community. It is what Jesus says” this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Mother’s Day, in it’s ideal, is about the expression of Love. It is a day that not only do we give thanks to God for the women who are mothers in our lives, but mothers thank God for the gift of mothering – the gift to obey Jesus’ command to love. Mothers and those who take on the gift of mothering learn the commandment to remain in love, to love in both happy and difficult times. If we are fortunate, faithfulness to this gift of loving brings us joy, joy complete. Not everyone is fortunate to have had a loving and caring mother or have the experience of motherhood. Some mothers experience sorrow and heartache instead of reciprocal love. But God did design us, so in the ideal world, mother love would be prominent and experienced by all. The Prophet reminds us:. Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”Is.49:15 God is there, even if a mom isn’t and will place someone in our lives.
Love is what Jesus wanted his church to look like. He started by choosing people. Mothers are one example of people lifted up as the epitome of selfless love, We need to be sensitive to the fact that some of us never had this loving relationship with a mother, or it’s just complicated. Today isn’t a day to celebrate for them. However, most of us are fortunate to have had or have mothers that come close enough. Most Perhaps Mother’s Day, observances are accompanied by dinners, cards, flowers, clothing perfume and other gifts, symbolizing the gratitude for the gift of mother love, might be different if some of that $25 billion dollars were spent on nurturing and promoted social well being of our most neediest mothers, desperately seeking to feed, clothe, house their children?
I ponder this, because I will never forget the people who helped my family, six of us raised by a single mother who worked two jobs, including all my brothers morning and evening paper routes, and we still became homeless. We still went hungry. But then there was the bag of groceries at the door, saying don’t give up. So, Mother’s Day is not just a day to give thanks for mom, but for those mom-like activities of sacrificial love in the world to help all the children of the world. Bear fruit, Jesus says. Love one another.
Today, when I think of my mother overlooked for promotions numerous times because of her gender, I remember the genesis of Mother’s Day, Anna Reeves Jarvis, who promoted mothers’ workdays to improve sanitation among the poorest of the Appalachian mountains. Anna Reeves Jarvis provided medical services to civilians and soldiers on both sides of the conflict during the Civil War. Later she would world for reconciliation.
In the same vein, we recall once more the words of poet and philanthropist Julia Ward Howe in 1872, as she proposed a Mother’s Day of Peace “Arise then women of this day!...we women of one country will be too tender o those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” When was the last time you say that quote on a Hallmark card?
What we don’t hear is the commercial take-over of Mother’s Day instead on the focus on true love: Anna Reeves fought congress have the whole thing revoked. It all felt blasphemous to her. Reeves would be absolutely appalled to know that Approximately $25 dollars will be spent on this weekend alone. It is a dilemma. We want to show our love for our mothers, we want to help mothers in need. Can we do it both, in honor of mother love? To follow Jesus’ Command to love one another – not just those closest to us?
I think Howe and Anna Reeves Jarvis would stand beside countless other mothers who have lost children to violence, who have taken a stance – we will not allow our children to be trained to kill others. Like Kendrick Castillo, the brave student who charged a shooter at his school in Colorado, dying to protect fellow students this past week in Colorado. That’s what it really means to lay down our lives for others – the kind of love Jesus wants us all to develop.
It is important to celebrate those we love. It is also important to celebrate those whom God loves—and that we catch that same spirit that spoke to the Gentile Cornelius who reached out to Peter, then be open to the loving vision, to hearing the same divine voice that spoke to Peter. Together they took the church in a new, scandalous, boundary bursting love-focused – direction.
Celebrate love today. Remember, though what Jesus said - I chose you. So burst some boundaries. Love someone whom it might be hard for you. Help someone who might not have a happy mothers’ day because of a lack of resources.
God chose you. You. Jesus is talking you in the plural here. Together we have something to offer the world that is precious, unique, irreplaceable. Our gifts combined create a wonderful, compelling story of grace that reveals the love of Christ then let us act and bear fruit – an overflowing abundance of God’s amazing love. So we can leave this world a better place, for God’s children who are looking up to us now. Happy Mother’s Day – and those without mothers will have the joy of mother love through us Amen.