The Seventh Sunday of Easter – The Homily
Simcha Fisher is a freelance writer and speaker who writes for several publications, including the National Catholic Register and Catholic Digest. She is the author of The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning, and lives in New Hampshire with her husband and ten children. She recently penned an article entitled: Dear Priests: This is how to survive Mother’s Day.
I don’t envy you Father. This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and it’s a tricky holiday. A lot of your parishioners are going to expect you to acknowledge it. Also, a lot of your parishioners are going to be mad if you acknowledge it.
A good portion of your congregation feels that the world despises motherhood, and they look to the Church to be the one place where they are appreciated for their sacrifices and their hard work. Another good portion of your congregation feels that the world only cares about women if they are mothers, and they look to the Church to be the one place where no one despises them for not being mothers. And then, of course, you will have the people who are mad that you mentioned a secular holiday during Mass.
- Some of your parishioners are pregnant. They are tired, their feet area swollen, they’re uncomfortable and they’re not sleeping well. In short, they’re miserable.
- Some of them desperately wish they were pregnant, and are working hard not to hate their fertile sisters.
- Some of them look pregnant, but are just fat, and if one more well-meaning priest blesses their unoccupied abdomens, they’re going to sock him in the jaw.
- Some of them look pregnant, but they’re the only one who knows that the baby they’re carrying is already dead.
- Some of your parishioners are the mothers of children who are already buried.
- Some are mothers of children whose bodies went straight into the hospital’s incinerator while they wept and bled.
- Some of your parishioners paid to have their children put there.
Some of your parishioners have been wretched mothers, and they know it. Some of them have been excellent mothers of wretched children, and everyone assumes that wretchedness must be the mother’s fault. Some of your parishioners hated their mothers.
Some of your parishioners are excellent mothers who pour their heart, soul, mind, and strength into caring for their families, and as soon as they get home from Mass, everyone expects them to get right back to cooking and cleaning and making life easy for everyone else, the same as every other day.
Some of them just lost their beloved mothers yesterday.
Some of them never knew their mothers at all.
So, what’s your plan, Father? Gonna make all the mothers stand up and be acknowledged? You could not do it and feel the wrath of a number of women who said that you ignored them on Mother’s Day. You could choose to do it but you’ll be forcing a lot of women to make a statement they may not want to make.
Gonna pass out carnations? Same problem.
Gonna make us extend our hands over mothers in blessing? Well, you’re the priest, not us. Some of us would just as soon keep our hands to ourselves.
She then offers a prayer of blessing and offers the advice to “Then scoot out the side door before anyone can yell at you.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) wrote the following thoughts on the Ascension of Christ in “On John’s Gospel:”
To Christ, as the Son, belongs the prerogative of sitting at the Father’s side. This honor can rightly and truly be ascribed to him alone.
Yet St. Paul teaches that the whole human race has a share in the events of Christ’s life. Paul says that “God has raised us up with him and enthroned us with him in heaven.”
Thus, in some mysterious way Christ passes on the honor of “sitting on the Father’s side” to us because his having become man means that he sits there as one who is – in all respects – someone just like ourselves, as well as being “God from God.”
In today’s Gospel reading, we heard, “Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word. That means that you live with a foot in two worlds, one foot firmly plantedon this earth; one foot at the Throne in heaven from where you can draw grace upon grace back down to wherever it is needed here on earth. We should not sell this short. John 14:12 – “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me – will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Lisa Brenninkmeyer is an author and speaker married with 7 children. She heard story after story of women longing for connection, looking for a safe place to ask questions about faith, and needing a way to refuel and be refreshed. The result of her holy discontent was, Walking with Purpose – a Scripture-based program that is fresh, relevant, and focused on conversion of heart.
One of the keys of the success of WWP is than only imperfect women are invited. Thus you might be an imperfect a mother, or father, or husband or wife or son or daughter. And St. Cyril would say that the experience of Easter and the Ascension is that believers know that we are not chained to here and now – there is more to come. The kingship of Christ, now inaugurated but also hidden, triumphs not in spite of – but precisely because of – the imperfection of the human nature of Christ’s followers … the same human nature that sits at the side of the Father and pours grace and mercy and forgiveness and hope and healing and peace upon us.
One poet writes the following prayer:
“Christ, the Father sent you because he loves us. If we are the Father’s gifts to you, then let us be gifts to one another.”
Audio version of the homily is here: