Christ is risen!
Being raised in the 70’s, my brother and I were direct witnesses to the changes in society as norms were challenged and changed. Some of these changes and challenges were absolutely necessary. How can anyone defend the reduction of talented people, no matter what their skin color, their gender, or their economic status, to mere categories of “acceptable” roles in society? Why, that very idea strikes one as, at the very least, too small to accommodate both the realities of history AND the miracle of each of us created in the image of God!
Well, even with the turmoil of societal change, one constant in my life is my mom. I was the oldest and my little brother and I were raised by a dear mother who was caught up in all the changes of the day. And she did a marvelous job in raising us. Both my brother and I could have become statistics of boys raised by single mothers, in the turmoil of the day, but mom would have none of that! She insisted we boys deal with the reality of our lives and be men of honor and respect. To this day, this dear woman still presents a wonderful example of an honorable woman. Of course, I’m partial. She is my mom after all!
Since this Sunday is Mother’s Day in the States, I find today’s Gospel Lesson a wonderful gift for us as we see the Lord of Heaven make sure His mom is cared for. Look at John 19:25-28, 21:24-25:
At that time, standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
The scene is so familiar to us. The Lord faces His painful purpose for coming to us in entering into the spiritual arena to confront, fight, and ultimately conquer mortality for us all. He is in the middle of this hot battle when He sees His Mother standing and witnessing her Son’s bravery, love, and strength as He hangs there for her, and us all! In the midst of the pain, the struggle, and the shame of crucifixion, He sees the women who have not allowed the shame of the execution to drive them away from Him. He sees His “disciple whom He loved” standing there (St. John) and, as her only child, He makes sure mom is taken care of after His death. He gives His mother to my brother, St. John, and He gives her to us all in this act of filial love.
Ultimately, our faith isn’t a series of educational opportunities; our faith isn’t a philosophical construct; our faith isn’t a nostalgic habit. No, our faith is, at it’s very core, a family. And this family is being fused together by love, both horizontal AND vertical. This hard work of communion is hard. It is risky. It is scary. And it is filled with opportunities to mess it up and make a mess. But, in spite of all these challenges and risks, it is still the only way to shape the communal love of God within we humans who are so prone to mistakes, missteps, and misunderstandings. The “fire” of this family of faith is why we always fail at the faith when we reduce it to mere ideas, to nostalgic sentiment, or to “private” belief. Our faith is, and has always, meant to shape our hearts, our homes, and our communities. Anything less is simply not Orthodox Christianity.
Today, is your faith shaping you into a family member or merely a “good” person? Does your faith affect how you choose to live with those around you? Does the care that Christ showed His mother from the cross inform you about the priority of your “family” in your life? As we move toward the Feast of Pentecost, let’s courageously face the reality that our Orthodox Faith is made to make us family, not merely members of the same club!
P.S. A Blessed Mother’s Day to all our Faith Encouraged Moms out there! And a special Mother’s Day to my mom: I love you, dear lady. May God grant you many years!