Reflection for Mothering Sunday from Rev. Robert Gemmell, Locum Minister
The sharing of joy and thanksgiving this Mothering Sunday will for most be limited and restrictive due to the difficult situation that surrounds us. Our daughter has already apologised but made it clear that her usual invitation to lunch will be on hold. She did however promise to come across with a present for her mum – but it will be delivered from a safe distance. I expect many of you will find yourselves in a similar situation.
You will recall that here at Wardie in these weeks of Lent we have been focussing on people and events of the Passion. We’ve so far looked at the Anointing of our Lord, Judas and Peter and we now turn our attention on Mothering Sunday to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
I wonder what pictures we have in our minds when we think about Mary. There’s the Mary of our Christmas cards. She is the central figure in many works of art. And she is also a highly significant figure in the history of the Church, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. She has been venerated and prayed to.
We aren’t told much about Mary in the Scriptures but she is certainly in a unique position among all the players in the Gospel narrative because she is there at the very beginning and she is there at the end. An angel announced to her that she would become pregnant and have a son. The details of what happened up to her giving birth in a stable in the village of Bethlehem are well known to all of us. Mary however must have been gripped by terror when the family had to flee to the strange land of Egypt as refugees. And how must she have felt when she discovered that the birth of her son had resulted in the death of so many other little boys?
The only other story we have in Scripture about Jesus’ childhood is when his parents couldn’t find him as they returned from their visit to Jerusalem. An incident with which I am sure those of us who are parents can identify.
If we had been meeting together in Church the passages I would have chosen to be read are both from John’s Gospel: John 2: 1–12 and 19: 25–27 – passages that don’t appear in any other Gospel. I encourage you to read them along with this reflection.
In our first passage – concerning the wedding at Cana where Jesus performed his first sign – Mary had a significant role to play. She tells Jesus that the wine has run out. Again a familiar narrative to all of us. Is her statement simply referring to the lack of refreshment at the wedding feast – or do her words have a deeper meaning? Is she referring to the real thirst experienced by the people which can only be quenched by the coming of the Messiah, God’s Son? We don’t know.
There must have been many such episodes in Mary’s life when she wondered just what was happening.
And then we turn to the second of our readings. It is just a couple of verses but how poignant it is. We find Mary at the foot of the cross. How often have we as parents, grandparents feared for the safety of members of our immediate or extended family? A relative has gone off to do a dangerous job, or has gone off to war. I well remember my nephew’s time spent in war-torn Afghanistan. But somehow there seems to be something even worse, if that is possible, about standing at the foot of a cross watching your son hang there dying in agony.
In these couple of verses Jesus is hanging on the cross and Mary and the beloved disciple are standing there. What a different picture this gives us of Mary. She is no longer a pious submissive figure. She is now weeping and grieving the death of her child. The death of a child always feels wrong and unnatural. She must have doubted whether things were really meant to turn out like this.
Jesus however speaks to his mother from the cross and he also speaks to the beloved disciple and puts them in each other’s care. This coming together represents the beginning of the new people of God, the household of love. The mother of Jesus becomes the mother of the beloved disciple and he becomes her son and shows love towards her by receiving her into his home.
In this time of Lent Mary gives us food for thought on the question of discipleship. She reminds us of the importance in faith of waiting. She didn’t immediately understand the truth about her son but she knew implicitly that there was more to him than met the eye. Throughout his years of ministry I think she was waiting through all the fear and hard times for illumination about her son and I believe that came at the cross when she understood the identity of her son. And surely the same is true for us. It is at the foot of the cross as we contemplate Jesus’ passion that our quest for understanding reaches its goal.
I think the exchange between Jesus and his mother is one of the most poignant exchanges in the Bible. Here, as he was dying, Jesus made sure his mother would be cared for. Was he repaying her for her years of care and devotion? I like to think so.
Mary didn’t always understand him and there must have been times when she was infuriated by him but she loved him with all the fervour of a mother’s love. And after he was gone she stayed among his friends, praying and hoping and remaining faithful.
In Mary God had chosen well.
Read our written service for Sunday 29th March 2020