2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Jan 27, 2019
Okay ladies it’s your turn. Over the past few weeks I’ve been giving a series of homilies on family life. The series has been called, “The Secrets of Every Happy Family”. I’ve gotten some good feedback from parishioners about these homilies. I hope your thinking and talking about them in your own family.
While there are many secrets to happy family life, I’ve focused on three. The first is that happy families recognize that family life is messy. At times even, good families have those occasions when they are a bit dysfunctional. No matter who we are as a family we will run up against family members who have flaws and foibles that make life difficult. Family members have to decide whether they will accept their members imperfections, faults and failures with grace and flexibility. Happy families decide to do just that. They accept a little bit of messiness.
The second common characteristic of happy families are that they are marked by respect. They start by recognizing and respecting God’s authority over the whole of their family life. Spouses have mutual respect in happy families and they take the necessary steps to teach respect to their offspring. The third quality of happy families that I have spoken of is that happy families recall that their family life impacts not only their own lives but all of the community. Their happiness reflects on the whole of their world.
Last week I spoke to the role of fathers in creating a happy family. I told you that the primary role of a father in the family is to bless their children and show them they take pride in them. Fathers need to offer their unconditional love and support to their child. Fathers are their family’s source of blessing, approval and encouragement. If a child doesn’t find encouragement from their family as their grow, they will look for approval from other people in other places. It maybe something they struggle with throughout their lives.
This week I’ll be talking about the role of a mother in creating a happy family. You might ask what does a priest know about being a mother. You might be surprised. Don’t forget I had one. I also have learned a great deal about mothers from studying scripture. Scripture teaches us a great deal about motherhood. We can start with Eve. She endured one of scripture’s great moments of suffering when fratricide struck her family. Family violence forced her to be the first mother to have to bury a child. It caused her to have to try to love another son who had committed unspeakable violence. Eve’s story tells us just how painful being a mother can be. No wonder mothers can be overly protective of their children and find it hard to let go.
Sarah the wife of Abraham struggled to conceive a child. When she finally gave birth to a son, she became overly protective and competitive for her child. She made Abraham drive his illegitimate son Ishmael and his mother Hagar, Sarah’s maid servant, out of their camp and into the desert. Scripture also tells us that mothers can play favorites among their children and use them to manipulate their spouses. That is what Rebekah the mother of Jacob and Esau did. She used her favorite son Jacob to manipulate her husband Isaac to trick him into giving Jacob the blessing Isaac wanted to give to his favorite son Esau. Scripture’s tells us that mothers can be over protective at times.
Today we get another story of motherhood in the interaction of Jesus and his mother while at a wedding feast at Cana. In today’s gospel from John we are told that the mother of Jesus, Jesus and his disciples were all at a wedding in Cana a neighboring town to Nazareth. In Jesus’ day weddings were very festive occasions. They could go on for days, a week or until the wine ran out. That was the problem that we heard about in today’s gospel. It seems that the wine was prematurely running out and the wedding would be cut short very much to the embarrassment of the bride and groom. Such a catastrophe would have reflected badly on the couple for years to come.
Apparently, the mother of Jesus was in some way involved in helping to oversee the feast. She recognizes that a crisis is about to ensue and brings the problem to Jesus’ attention. She has the expectation that he can and should do something about the crisis. This isn’t just an idle request. Jesus and his mother both know that if Jesus preforms a miracle at this time it will have earth shattering consequences. It will mean that it is time for Jesus to begin his ministry of preaching that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It will be the first sign that reveals that Jesus is the Messiah. If Jesus performs a miracle at this point in time it will hasten the beginning of his ministry and his ultimate journey to the cross. Mary knows that. She also knows that now is the time for Jesus to leave their home and her authority and be about the business for which God the Father had sent him into the world.
Mary seems to give Jesus a bit of a push to begin his public ministry. She takes command of the situation and tells the servers to, “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus tells them to fill the stone jars to the brim with water. Miraculously, the water is changed to wine. Not just any wine but an incredible amount of the choicest wine. This wine will allow the festivities to continue on for quite some time. In the scriptures wine is used as a sign of the abundance of God’s generosity and grace. This first sign preformed by Jesus is a symbol that God’s grace is abundantly present in our world in the person of Jesus. It is the sign that causes the first disciples to begin to believe that Jesus is the messiah. The miracle is Jesus’ first step on the path of doing the will of God in his life. It is the first step on his way to the cross.
The role of the mother in a happy family is to train their children well so that they can go into the world to do God’s will. It is to make sure they are well prepared for their mission and then let them go. It is a painful, challenging process but it is the responsibility of mothers to set their children free to do God’s will in their lives.
How does a mother prepare her children to go out into the world? She teaches them that like Mary they can go to Jesus when a problem seems to be developing. A good mother is like Mary and she knows that she can go to Jesus with any problem and not be turned down. Mothers of happy families know that if they recognize a problem developing in their family, they can go to the Blessed Mother to ask her to intercede for them with Jesus. They believe that Jesus will respond to their need when Mary brings it to him just as he did at the wedding feast. They believe that through the Blessed Mother’s intercession Jesus will help them bringing about the good resolution of any problem they face. Mothers of happy families have a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin and depend on her intercession. They believe that she is the powerful intermediary between their households and God.
Mothers of happy families recognize that they need to model obedience to God for their families. As Mary advised the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Faithful mothers encourage their families to obey the will of God in their lives. They encourage faithful obedience to the will of God even when God’s will seems hard to understand. They encourage their families to follow God’s will even when it seems fruitless to do so. Mothers of happy families have trust in God and know that in the fulness of time God will help us see the good resolution to every problem. Faithful mothers guide their families to place their trust in God.
Faithful mothers introduce their families to Jesus. Happy mothers have a strong relationship with Jesus through prayer and scripture reading. That close relationship with Jesus allows them to be Jesus’ spokesperson. It is through faithful mothers that God so often choses to address the whole family. Yes, children your mother is the voice of God at times and it is wise to listen to her. Faithful mothers try to encourage their children to develop their own strong relationship with God. They aren’t afraid to let their families see them pray. They encourage their children to pray together as a family for all the family’s needs.
Importantly, mothers in happy families recognize their role is that of preparation. They realize that the greatest test of their motherhood is preparing to release their children into the world as Mary did at Cana. They realize that their role as mother is not to raise children but to raise adults. They recognize that ultimately, they need to give their children away to the world. It can be a heart wrenching thing but little bit by little bit they have to release their children into the world.
I don’t know if it is because of the decline in the birthrate but it seems that we are living in a culture where mothers are finding it harder and harder to let their children go. We live in an age of helicopter parents and tiger moms. Parents seem to often be coming more and more protective of their children and failing to want to let them go into the world.
Happy families are characterized by mothers who recognize that their role is to prepare their children to face the world with confidence. Having done that, they then let go. They are able to let go with the confidence that they have taught their child to depend on God. Like the mother of Jesus, they are confident they have taught their child that God has a plan for them and that God is watching over them.
Letting children go free into the world is a difficult task for any mother. We must always respect Mothers for that great sacrifice. In the story of the wedding at Cana we hear an exchange that is rather confusing to our 21st Century western ears. When Mary first asks Jesus to solve the wine problem his response to her is, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” It sounds harsh to us but in Jesus culture addressing a female as “woman” was a sign of respect. It was a term not usually used by a son in conversation with his mother. Jesus uses this term as a sign of respect for all the mothers he meets in the gospels. He calls even females of dubious reputation such as the Samaritan woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery by that respectful term.
Jesus uses the term because he has great respect for his mother. Jesus respects Mary because he is appreciative of her letting him go into the world to fulfill God’s mission for him. He is showing respect to all mothers by addressing them as woman. He respects them because he knows the great sacrifice involved in being the faithful mother of a happy family.
The key to happy family life is ultimately every member, father, mother, and child being willing to do God’s will in their lives. God does not leave us alone to struggle to try to find our own way. God constantly pours his grace into our lives through the Eucharist we are about to celebrate. Today accept that grace and allow it to strengthen you to do every thing you can to live your life in such a way that you contribute to making your family a truly happy one.