< I have to start by thanking you for the wonderful response to the Annual Catholic Appeal last weekend. (We are going to copyright Fr. Peterson's homily.) As you will see in the bulletin 570 families pledged a total of $60,318! Not only will this enable us to meet the Archdiocesan request of $42,000 from Holy Family, but to fix our carillon bells and do major work on our sound system. As you know, our facilities are crying out for other work. For example, to make them handicap accessible. This week a family came to the rectory to talk about a funeral. Fr. Peterson had to meet with them in the Church because their son was in a wheelchair and therefore could not get into the rectory. Our social hall and the Ailbe House have the same problem. There are a lot of needs here and what we ask is that those who have not pledged please fill our your envelope. As Fr. Peterson indicated, if every family gave $80, that is, $10 a month in eight installments, we could reach $104,000. How much we could do at Holy Family if we had that support!
Today is a beautiful day. Not only do we feel a great satisfaction because of the support given to the Annual Appeal, but above all because we are honoring our moms. On behalf of Fr. Peterson and all of our parish staff, I wish all here a Happy Mothers Day. We are remembering in our Masses this weekend all of our mothers. If you are like me and have the good fortune to still have your mom alive, we are praying for their good health. If you mom has died, we are praying for her eternal rest.
This year Mother's Day falls on Ascension Sunday, the day Jesus ascended to take his place at the right hand of the Father. We use the image of him sitting on a throne because he has full authority. We can say that today is the true feast of Christ the King, Jesus' Enthronement.
Jesus did not ascend into heaven to abandon us; the Church is not a kind of orphanage. As we shall see next Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, Jesus had to ascend so that he could be present with us in the deepest possible way, through his Holy Spirit. We also know, as St. Augustine said, where the Head is, there also is the Body. As members of the Body of Christ, we are already in heaven with Jesus.
This is a great mystery. Our young people who were confirmed received some taste of this. Archbishop Murphy anointed them on the forehead with Holy Chrism as said, "Be sealed with the gift of the Spirit." They received a mark, a character on their soul, which, no matter what, will be with them for all eternity. Our life in God begins here on earth and each one of us has the freedom to accept or reject that life.
We can get some inkling of that life, that intimate relationship we have with Jesus our Head, by reflecting on the meaning of motherhood. Our lives began in total dependence. At a certain time, each one of us was tinier than a raindrop, in fact so small you would have needed magnification to see us. Even then we were receiving sustenance from our mother. But we were not only receiving, we were sending chemically coded messages which were drastically changing her body, her emotions, even her spirituality. This relationship back and forth of mother and child which grows and grows is something like our relationship with Jesus in the Body of Christ.
I saw this parent-child relationship lived out in a powerful way when I was in Peru. For the Aymara Indians that relationship was central to their whole culture. The child's life revolved around his parents, right up to the day he got married. I remember once talking with a man in his early twenties. He was very sad and I asked him why. He told me he was so in love with this girl and wanted to marry her, but he couldn't. "What happened?" I asked, "Didn't she want to?" "No," he said, "She very much wants to marry me, but my parents told me she is not the right girl for me."
I was pretty shocked, but then I started thinking. Maybe we have lost something in our culture. Our young people get married on the basis of romantic attraction, and the parents generally have very little say. But we are not exactly getting long-lasting marriages. Maybe we should take another look at the fourth commandment, "Honor your father and mother."
Our culture says that parents are responsible for their child until he turns 18. They might then say to their 18-year old, "you are on your own now, kid." But young people are not totally comfortable with this set-up. A University Chaplain told me that the commandment college students most struggle with is not the sixth which prohibits use of sex apart from marriage. The toughest one is what I just mentioned, the fourth. Honor your father and mother. It may surprise some parents to know they are in some way more important to their children at that stage than any other.
This is the case for most of the young Hispanics who have come to the United States. When I ask them why they came, they inevitably say, "To be able to help out my mom and dad." They are thinking about their parents all the time, and it is what can keep them from falling into some of the traps and temptations here. In fact, if we really lived the fourth commandment, we wouldn't have so much trouble with the others.
A lot of our parents can feel overwhelmed, even frightened, about raising children in this society. That is especially true for moms. They feel like they have to "super-moms," perfect in every way. I want to say something here. I have a great mom; I am really proud of her. But there is one burden I would never want to put on her—or any mom. The burden of having to be perfect.
A feminist friend of mine expressed this dilemma. She has on her wall a poster which says:
Young mothers can feel overwhelmed by this demand to be supermoms. We need to establish more realistic expectations.
Children and high school students will sometimes share with me the inadequacies of their parents and it causes a lot of suffering. I always thank them for their confidence in talking with me, but I also tell them, "God chose exactly the parents He wanted you to have. Through them God not only gave you the gift of life, but the continued gift of His protection—as long as you honor and obey them."
Parents are a source of God's protection, His grace, not just for their own children. In fact, as the children grow older it is natural for that love to broaden out. I saw that in the case of my own mom. During the years I was in Peru, I told her about needy children and families there. And she and my dad and other family members visited in 1988. She became a kind of mother to them, by prayers and by financial support. Today we have a family center in Peru which bears the name of my mom: The Mary Bloom Center. On the main wall of the Center there is a picture of my mom and dad. It gives an inspiration to young couples who are often struggling to raise their children right.
We are blessed at Holy Family to have so many women who are like my mom. They have raised their own families—and they continue to pray for their children, but their motherly love extends to the children we have in our parish school, our C.C.D. program and even beyond our parish boundaries. We have been expressing this concern very concretely the past few Sundays by our participation in the Annual Catholic Appeal. I thank you and if there are people who have not come aboard, there will be chance at today's offertory.
Sharing time, talent, treasure is at the heart of being members of the Body of Christ. We are joined to Jesus our Head, who is now ascended into heaven, and by being joined to Him we are deeply united with—and responsible for—each other. There is an added bonus which I want to mention this Sunday. I said that none of us has a perfect mother. That is not totally true. When Jesus hung on the cross, he performed one last act of kindness. His widowed mother stood at his feet along with the beloved disciple. Since Jesus had no brothers or sisters, he entrusted his mother to the beloved disciple. Woman, behold thy son. Son, behold thy mother.
But this was not only an act of earthly care. Scripture scholars tell us the beloved disciple stands for the whole Church. Jesus gave his mother to each one of us. Mary is the mother of the Church, the mother of the baptized. We do after all have a perfect mother. Dear mothers, you can be at peace. Even if you are not "super-mom" you can do something even better. Entrust your children to the mother of Jesus.
The Hispanics have a beautiful custom of doing this. When their child is about 40 days old, they bring him to the Church and we say a prayer at the altar of our Lady of Guadalupe. Maybe you did not do that. But it is not too late. You can do it today in your own heart. Even if that child is 40, entrust him to the Blessed Virgen Mary, the one perfect mother.
Entrust your children and your own self to the Blessed Virgen Mary. And be at peace today, dear mother. And may you have a Happy Mother's Day.