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Homily for Mother’s Day and the Solemnity of the Ascension

CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO VERSION OF THIS SUNDAY HOMILY

Today is Mother’s Day. Today is one of the most beautiful days of the year. Let us consider for a moment the thoughts of two great men about the role their mothers played in their lives.

George Washington once said, “My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her.”

Abraham Lincoln spoke similar words when he said, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.”

Unfortunately, many people in our society would not agree with these great men who had great mothers. Today, many think that their lives have no meaning unless they are employed in the workplace; thus only in this way they regard themselves useful for society. They consider the role of a stay home mom to be a waste of time.

However, although the circumstances of some women oblige them to work, today many more married women are finding that staying home and raising their children is the right way to go.
Motherhood is a very high calling. What relationship can ever replace the love of a mother and a grandmother? It is essential for women to realize that the love, guidance and influence they provide to their children are distinct and invaluable.

Pope Francis writes: Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism. It is they who testify to the beauty of life.

Certainly, a society without mothers would be dehumanized, for mothers are always, even in the worst of times, witnesses to tenderness, dedication and moral strength. Mothers often communicate the deepest meaning of religious practice in the first prayers and acts of devotion that their children learn… Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith itself would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth.

Dear mothers: thank you! Thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world. A mother who watches over her child with tenderness and compassion helps him or her to grow in confidence and to experience that the world is a good and welcoming place. This helps the child to grow in self-esteem and, in turn, to develop a capacity for intimacy and empathy” (Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 174 – 175).
There is no doubt that motherhood is a very high calling. But, to whom can mothers look as the real model of motherhood?

Today’s modern culture offers many role models through television, movies and women’s magazines. However, often these role models are either all together wrong or they offer a very limited and unrealistic view of true motherhood.
All mothers who wish to be true to their high calling need only look to the woman who became the greatest mother of all. Born into humble surroundings, she was called by God to be the mother of the Son of God. She affirmed her obedience to the call of God and lived out her vocation throughout her entire life. Mary, the mother of Jesus, our Blessed Mother, is the true model of motherhood.

“It can thus be said that women, by looking to Mary, find in her the secret of living their femininity with dignity and of achieving their own true advancement. In the light of Mary, the Church sees in the face of women the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable: the self-offering totality of love; the strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows; limitless fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement” (John Paul II, Redemptories Mater).

One aspect of Mary’s life that has particular meaning and inspiration for many mothers today is the profound suffering that she endured during the passion of Our Lord. Stabat Mater. Mary stood at the foot of the cross.

Divorce, separation, single moms, widows, mothers forced to work out of necessity, grandmothers raising grandchildren, prodigal children and prodigal grandchildren, are realities that cause deep, daily suffering for many women. Added to all of these sufferings, is the pain endured by many married women who would like to be mothers.

All mothers and grandmothers need to find in Mary, our Blessed Mother, the faith, hope, love and fortitude to stand firm at the foot of the cross. All suffering has power when we unite our suffering to the cross of Jesus. Take your suffering, united to the suffering of Jesus, and offer that suffering for your children and grandchildren.

As we honor our mothers and grandmothers on this yearly celebration of motherhood, we also need to consider the essential duties of husbands and children.

Saint Paul exhorts husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 6: 25). Husbands have the solemn duty to sacrifice themselves continually in their total love for their wives and their children. Each day provides numerous opportunities for husbands to live out their family life with many acts of patience, kindness and service.

Through loving obedience and the living out of the virtue of charity, children become a joy and not a burden to their mothers and grandmothers, and the children in turn learn to emulate these same virtues. Conversely, children who are self-centered will be unable to love the way that they should.

To be a true mother today is certainly very challenging indeed. However, our yearly celebration of Mother’s Day should motivate all mothers to understand the importance of their call by God to motherhood.

My prayer is that men will respect women and not use them as an object.

I am very grateful for the young people of my parish, who struggle every day to heroically live their lives according to God’s plan within a society that is completely out of control.

Today, we also celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension.

The risen and glorified Jesus physically returns to the Father. We await with joyful expectation his return in glory. Where he has gone, we hope to follow. This is our ultimate goal: get to heaven.

What is heaven? Heaven has been defined for us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church with these words: “Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live forever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they see him as he is, face to face. This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called heaven. Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (1023 – 1024).

In the Gospels, Jesus speaks of this mystery through images. He calls it the kingdom, a place of life, light and peace. He refers to it as a wedding feast, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem and paradise.
Saint Paul tells us that “no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor the heart of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2: 9). And Saint John tells us that in heaven “we shall see him as he really is” (1 John 3: 2).

Saint Paul’s awe is echoed in the words of a child taking an evening walk with her father. Wonderingly, she looked up at the stars and exclaimed: “Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be!”
Life confined to the boundaries of time and space without the promise of eternal life would be cruel and unbearable to live. Without the certainty of an eternal paradise, the trials and tribulations of this present life would have no meaning and purpose.

The judgments of time will be corrected by the judgments of eternity. The injustices of this world will be replaced by the justice of the world to come. The tears shed now, will be replaced by the joy lived forever in eternal life.
The martyrs throughout the history of the Catholic Church were able to sustain unbearable trials precisely because they were certain of a place called heaven. They were able to persevere and resist sin because their love for the next life was greater than their love for this present life.

There is a heaven and we need to get there. There is a hell, and we need to do everything that we can to avoid the possibility of losing our immortal soul.

Our number one priority is to get to heaven.
There is another dimension to this feast day that we need to consider.

The Second Vatican Council, in one of the most important documents of the sixteen conciliar documents, teaches us that although our goal is to reach eternal life, this does not excuse us from our earthly obligations.

“Therefore, while we are warned that it profits a man nothing if he gains the whole world and lose himself, the expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age” (Gaudium et spes, The Church in the Modern Word, I, III, 39).

We cultivate this earth by being passionate and responsible stewards of our time, talent and treasure. As creatures of God, everything that we have is a gift from God.

Discipleship and stewardship are one and the same reality. We are called to give of ourselves and what we have been given.

Stewardship must be seen as the way we live out our vocation as a Christian people.

When we understand that everything that we have is a gift from God, we will journey through life totally detached from everything, but at the same time, never aloof from the needs of others.

It is our task to make this world a better place for all.

Yes, it is true that the Solemnity of the Ascension does direct our gaze toward eternal life. However, our struggle to attain eternal life must never serve as an escape from our duties here on earth.

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