Motherhood: All love begins and ends there,” said British poet and playwright, Robert Browning. Is it any wonder that we have a separate day to celebrate mothers, who mirror the tender love of God?
When speaking of motherhood, and reflecting on my own mother and Mary, three qualities come to mind: sacrificial love, unconditional love, and teaching love.
For most mothers, the challenges begin with pregnancy as her body makes incredible adjustments and accommodations for her growing unborn child. Motherhood speaks sacrifice, a word seldom heard in a world that grasps and aggressively seeks its own interest.
Yet somehow sacrificial love has endured through time and continues to be practiced by mothers in every culture and throughout all of history. A mother is called to help mold hearts to resemble the heart of God. The sacrifices can be small and go unnoticed, but their effects are profound because they soften those around them to be more generous and more giving.
The adoptive and spiritual mother also sacrificially responds to those in need, with watchful eyes and an open heart to restore and heal the brokenness in others. Sacrificial love always seeks to serve.
Mothers gladly add another setting to the table of love, illustrated through simple acts done quietly and without complaint, as well as the great heroic acts that demand so much yet are accepted with an incredible courage born of love.
The unconditional love of a mother is a great gift that upholds the dignity of the child, providing a safety net to protect them from harm. When a child wanders from the path and seeks reconciliation, unconditional love gives her the ability to readily forgive her prodigal child. She doesn’t keep score but keeps hope alive instead. Whenever practiced, a mother’s unconditional love becomes the conduit of God’s unconditional love.
Mary has been one of the greatest teachers of the art of loving. “By her motherhood, Mary shows us that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong,” said Pope Francis in a homily on the Mother of God.
Through the day-to-day demonstration of sacrificial and unconditional acts from a mother, love is taught and transmitted to the next generation. If practiced well, it provides an eternal spark needed for the fire of love to burn more brightly within all of us. In a whisper, in the soft healing kiss to a bruised knee or ego, her love shines like a warm light that heals and creates a sense of acceptance and safety.
What does a mom ask in return? Most ask for nothing, but for many of us, we owe her and all the other moms in our lives, everything.
+Robert E. Guglielmone, Bishop of Charleston