“A sword will pierce your heart.”
Those words, spoken to Mary by the aged Simeon, ring true for all mothers. With the discomforts of pregnancy, when features swell with gained weight, a once graceful walk becomes a waddle, and the excruciating pain of the last stages of labor make her scream in agony, a mother takes a look at her bloody, mucous filled infant, the cause of all her recent sorrows. She presses him to her breasts and feels nothing but comfort and joy.
Then she takes home her bundle of joy and says goodbye to rest and sleep. Even when the baby is sleeping soundly, she worries about forgetting to breathe and crib death and so she gets up every so often and lays hands gently on him just to make sure that he is still breathing… still alive.
Then he goes through infancy, the terrible twos, threes and fours; the problems of Kindergarten, with the weekly colds and ear infections and pink eye and head lice. And at times she is so tired from working all day and being the chauffeur, picking up, dropping off, soccer, baseball, football, basketball, dealing with homework, with the bully that terrorizes him at recess, doing the groceries, the cooking, the washing and the cleaning, and so much more.
No wonder that she is exhausted by the time she reads him his favorite bedtime story. And when he finally falls asleep, she kisses his forehead and just looks at him. She looks at this little sleeping angel and sees his future – his first communion, his many graduations, his wedding, his own experience with fatherhood – she strokes his head without thinking. Suddenly he stirs, he wakes and half-asleep he says, “I love you, mommy” and falls back asleep. Her eyes fill with tears, and she experiences such intense joy that she feels that she is getting a taste of the heavenly rapture before death.
Once again, she is energized and she is ready for tomorrow, with all its required efforts and resulting fatigue.
Then come the teenage years, when children are convinced that they know everything and their parents know nothing. The mothers deal with the daily attitudes and moods, and the many heartaches of raising teenagers, but the worse thing of all is the worry… five minutes late – he could have had a flat tire; half an hour late – oh my God, he’s been in an accident; an hour late – let’s start calling the hospitals and police stations. And this never changes, no matter how old the children might be.
A good mother is always close to God, for she is always praying for her children.
Then one day, he brings a young lady home to meet her, and she prays a lot harder – either for it to end, or, if she’s the “right girl” for it not to end, that he doesn’t do anything stupid to mess it up this time…
As she lies in bed at night, after prayers, she wonders how it is possible to love one human being so much, so without condition. She thinks that she would sacrifice anything for him. Yes, she would even die for him.
You see, a mother’s love is not just the hugs and the kisses, the loving caresses and the sweet smiles. It is teaching and healing; it is sacrifice and hard work, it is feeding and cleaning, it is compassion and acceptance and forgiveness, it is giving all she has to give, worrying and praying, and again sacrifice and more sacrifice.
A mother’s love is so much like the love of Jesus.
And so, today, we celebrate all mothers, all unique in their own way and yet with so many similar traits. Today, we celebrate all women, even those who have never given birth but who have mothered and nurtured so many as if they were their own. Like the sisters who run the orphanages and nutritional centers in the poor countries countries, and the wonderful aunts and godmothers who spoiled us to death. Today, we honor you all and celebrate you and we want you all to know that, although we don’t express it enough, we cherish you and we love you.