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Homilies from St Etheldreda's

Channels of eternal life

Posted March 14, 2021

4th Sunday of Lent , Yr B

Today is Lætare Sunday – the Sunday that tells us to rejoice.  It’s also Mother’s Day  – the day that reminds us, if we needed reminding, of all that we owe to mum.  And, thirdly, a major theme in today’s Gospel is the gift of eternal life.  I thought I might bring together these three lovely themes by celebrating mother’s role as the channel of eternal life.

You see, eternal life (that is, God’s inner life poured out into our souls) does not come to us unmediated.  Its primary mediator, of course, is Christ, who is the reservoir of eternal life.  (‘I have come that they may have life and life in abundance.’)  But others too, in Christ, become channels of eternal life to each one of us. 

In most cases our faith and spiritual aspirations received their first nurturing in mother’s words and example, and, still more, in the mysterious influence that mother had on us from our earliest years.  In the history of Christian iconography there is no more pervasive image than that of the Madonna and Child bonded together in profound serenity.  This image does not come from the Bible.  It comes from our experience, which tells us that the spiritual symbiosis of mother and child is one of the most wonderful of all human realities and the perfect metaphor for the God who pours himself into our souls. 

So when you say thank you to mum today you must have in mind not just the fact that she has spoilt you rotten with material kindnesses for as long as you can remember, and long before.  You should have in mind especially the major part she has had in the unfolding of that mystery which is you, and your future fulfilment in eternity.  For you will be in eternity what you are now, brought to full flowering by God’s grace: and what you are now, you in large part received from your mother. 

I love the words of the blessing that is pronounced over the mother in the baptism ceremony, which speaks of God bringing ‘joy to all Christian mothers as they see the hope of eternal life shine on their children’.  And the blessing goes on to ask that mother ‘may be one with her child in thanking God forever in heaven in Christ Jesus our Lord.’  Of course it is formulated as a Christian blessing, but it must apply to all mothers as such, for the relationship between every mother and child must surely have eternal consequences, if we believe in eternity at all.  So let these deeper, spiritual thoughts accompany the daffodils and the Amedei Toscano Black Truffles that we shall be giving to mother today in token of our gratitude.

And all you children present: Be good children, and always thank God for all his gifts, and remember that the best of all God’s gifts to you is your mum.  (Well, your dad as well, but you don’t need to tell him that until 20th June.)  Your mum has given you everything for free and often at great cost to herself. 

And to the mums present: Your vocation is to imitate God.  We have heard from the epistle to the Ephesians how God lavished his love on us out of sheer grace, as a free gift.  You mothers are called to share in this divine generosity, lavishing your love on your children: not, of course, for the sake of self-indulgence, but to magnify the love that God has invested in his creation.  Contrary to what the world seems to think: children are not for your entertainment or for your benefit; they are sacred persons entrusted to you, to lead them, through gentle love and wisdom, to total fulfilment in God. 

And as for those of us who are not mothers: Well, we are all mothers in one sense, for there is not one of us who is not charged with the sacred task of channelling God’s creative love into the lives of other people, and so sharing in God’s motherhood.

A mother said to me: ‘I try to be a good mother.  But it’s not always easy.’  I’m sure she speaks for all mothers here present.  May this Eucharist, and our heartfelt appreciation, and the Chocolate Truffles, remind them that it is all eternally worth while.

Fr Tom Deidun

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