Children play, recite and sing. “Mother, may I?” “Yes, you may.” “Old Mother Hubbard went to her cupboard.” “Mommy finger, Mommy finger, where are you?”
Mother, Mama, Momma, Mom, Mommy, Mummy, Madre. Children readily understand images of mothers. Children relate to a mother protecting and loving a child. Even if a child has not experienced such nurturing love from his or her mother, the child comprehends Mother-Love by instinct, or from another person who gives that kind of maternal care.
Mother Mary is a deep point of resonance for faithful followers of Jesus across the globe. I see this resonance as emotional and spiritual connective tissue behind the ache so many perceive at the ruinous fire of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral. Surely, she is a centuries-old building that witnessed profound history and a gorgeous architectural and artistic wonder. But even more, Notre Dame represents Mother-Love to the people of Paris and the world. She is a place of shelter, nurturing and embracing. The whole world longs for such an embrace.
Across this wide Earth, recent months brought pain for those who are yearning for sacred spaces and holy communities. Violence against churches, synagogues and mosques is — and gives witness to — the pain of the world. Paul the apostle related these pains to pregnancy and labor in his letter to the church at Rome. “We know that everything God made has been waiting until now in pain, like a woman ready to give birth. Not only the world, but we also, have been waiting with pain inside us.” (Romans 8:22-23a, NCV).
Once more, with permission, I share a reflection between a mother and her child. You have met brothers Porter and Walker before. Here, Walker sees his mother’s pain. She writes:
Today I woke up with a heartache. I got up and got my kids up and ready and took them to school and I still had the heartache. I came back home and fixed the little one breakfast and went about life. Heartache still. I climbed the stairs and crawled into bed with the heartache and just decided to be in it for a bit. Stomp-stomp-stomp! Up comes the little one to the bedroom.
“Mommy, I love you. Can I lay in this bed with you?”
Yes, of course.
“Are you sad today?”
A little bit. Yes. Actually, I am.
“Are you sad about Harley dog?” (Harley recently died.)
I’m still sad about Harley, but other things too.
“Oh ... remember when I was in your tummy and you growed me there?”
“Does that make you happy?”
“But did you grow Porter there?”
“But not at the same time ...”
No, different times.
“And Emma is a girl and I’m a boy and Porter is always Spider-Man.”
“But you growed us all. And I’m not a girl and I’m not even Spider-Man. But we all growed there.”
Yes. That’s true. You all did.
“And you love us.”
Yes. More than you can even believe.
And in that conversation with my 4 year-old, I see that he sees what I want the world to see. We were all “growed” at different times. We are all different. And we are all loved by God more than we can believe.
We are all loved by God more than we can believe. Moving through times of heartache, pain and sadness is part of this human journey. Pains and pangs can bring new life. We must labor for it, seek it, create it. Paul writes: “We have the Spirit as the first part of God’s promise. So we are waiting for God to finish making us God’s own children, which means our bodies will be made free.” (Romans 8: 23b,NCV)