In recent months I've become very aware of a certain truth, which I may express this way: “loving someone equals suffering.”
I have seen in recent times, and see right now, several people I know or am close to suffering in different ways for someone they love; a mother suffers for her son; a wife for her husband; a friend for her father-in-law; a mother for her husband, and for her two sons; a mother for her daughter.
As you'll see, in many cases the loved ones are family members.
My purpose in this blog post is not to cause sadness or depression by this observation but to point to a deeper truth woven throughout life, which Jesus referred to when he said, “in this world you will have trouble. But fear not; I have overcome the world.”
The recent re-occurrence of Mother’s Day has led me – along with, no doubt, many others - to reflect upon how mothering and motherhood means different things to different people. A friend recently quoted this to me: “The greatest gift a mother can give her children is roots, and wings.”
But what of the mother whose child, though of an age where they might well take wing and fly, has returned to the roost and remains firmly in place, still very much in need of guidance and support, for many reasons? Is that mother to regard herself as having failed, for her daughter has failed to take wing and fly?
No. Mothering has many different dimensions.
We may have had a difficult experience of motherhood in the past; but it is astonishing and wonderful how the passage of time, and the gift of reflection and “hindsight” can transform our thoughts and feelings about our mothers – especially when we become mothers ourselves.
We have seemingly contradictory pictures of how Jesus related to his own mother; in parts of the Gospel story he is shown apparently being harsh to Mary; in other key passages, in his deepest suffering, he is shown to be thinking only of her and her wellbeing and future protection and security.
We don’t know exactly what Jesus’ relationship with his mother was like, but we have many clues which enable us to guess. The most significant of these is the one thing of which we can be sure; she was deeply, intensely involved with her son, she was with him as he hung on the cross, and her response as a young girl to the message of the Angel Gabriel was to bring her joy, wonder, and years of suffering.
Thus we have a vast pool of art, music, painting, words, poetry, sculpture, inspired by her example; not least of which is Michelangelo’s Pieta, a beautiful sculpture of Mary with her crucified son Jesus lying over her knees. And the image of mother and child for the entire human race has become inextricably bound up with her. Yet beneath all her suffering, there ran a deep and certain thread of knowledge that she was right in the centre of God’s will and at the very heart of human history and destiny.