A few weeks ago, I was sitting on the playground at my daughter’s school while my girls played for a little. I was sitting on a bench on the edge of the basketball court holding my son. There was a group of middle school boys playing basketball and pestering some middle school girls. As I watched them make sixth-grade boy jokes and mess with the girls, I had a thought I’ve had many times before that went something like, “Oh geez. Sixth grade boys are so obnoxious. How do their mothers handle them?”
And then immediately, I looked down at my precious, almost-one-year-old son and knew the answer. A mother’s love is so overflowing and naturally unconditional that no amount of obnoxious or naughty or downright sinful can phase that love.
Here are the two spiritual lessons I have been contemplating since that moment on the bench that we can all learn from a mother’s love.
Everyone has a mother.
St. Paul tells us, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls” (Rm 14:4). He reminds us that it is not our place to deem a person justified or condemned since it is not before us that he or she stands. This is one of those things I know to be true, but when I experience or witness the sins of others, I struggle to live it out.
So to St. Paul’s admonition, I add this little in-the-moment weapon for when the temptation of judgment sneaks into our hearts. Remember that everyone has a mother. Every saint, every sinner, was once held in the arms of his or her mother, was nursed at her breast and soothed to sleep by her voice. Everyone was loved by their mother with that unconditional, overflowing love that those of us who are mothers know deeply and can’t explain. This thought should be enough to drive us to compassion if we have known this kind of love from our own mothers or for our own children.
And if there are exceptions to this rule, men and women and children who were not beloved and cherished by their mothers for whatever reason, how much more so are those people deserving of our compassion rather than judgment?
Moreover, when a mother sees her child fall into sin, make a mistake, get hurt, her heart is grieved, she almost feels a physical pain within her seeing them struggle or make bad decisions. May God grant us all the ability to see each person with the eyes of his or her mother that we may grieve when we experience or witness their sins while still being able to hold them in love in our hearts.
Which leads me to my second thought…
God loves us like a mother.
Jesus once said at the end of scolding the Pharisees for their very bad behavior, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not” (Mt 23:27)! While He is in fact the Master who has the right to judge His servants for their sins, His love is so great, so immeasurable, that He grieved to see them and us stray from the path of Life.
Just as us mothers aren’t angry with our children’s mistakes (on our best days…let’s not worry that we don’t yet have perfect Love but earnestly pray that it be granted to us) but experience the pain and sorrow of watching them go astray, so God grieves over us when we stray from His Way, the Way that He knows leads us to happy, blessed, eternal Life.
And just as a mother would always much rather her children truthfully confess their mistakes and repent earnestly, so, too, does our Lord much prefer that we confess and repent of our sins than we try to hide what He already knows and pretend as if we have done nothing harmful.
We should take heart in knowing just how deeply God’s love for us runs. Nothing we can do except for remaining unrepentant and stubborn in our sin cannot be forgiven. Nothing, dear ones, not even sin, can separate us from the love of God. Those of us who are mothers should truly be able to believe this in our very core because we know that even in our imperfection, nothing, not one thing, can keep us from loving our own children, and we are God’s children.
Happy Mother’s Day!