My hubby and I were at a dinner with friends and we got on the subject of chores and kids; one of the moms, who has ten, wanted to know if we, the rest of the moms, thought of ourselves as Mommy-slaves, or as Mommy?
I asked her to explain the difference. She said that mommy-slaves will do everything for their children and not allow them to be responsible. They believe that its best to be a maid servant than a true mom who teaches her children how life really works! This whole subject really touched a chord for my friend and this morning when the Gospel was read, the whole conversation came back to me: What is God saying to mothers with this reading?
Look at Mary as an example of how God is calling us to be in today's Gospel. Mary was one very strong Jewish mother, she had great respect from her son Jesus, look at her parenting skills in the gospel of Jesus lost and preaching in the Temple, look at how she "handled" him at the wedding in Cana. It is clear that Mary was strong, firm but loving in her approach to parenting Jesus, he know who she was - his mother. She clearly was guiding him, teaching, nurturing him to be a grown man and fully realize his calling. It is clear that Mary has a prominent place in the ministry of Jesus. She is there when the apostles gather in the upper room after Jesus' death, she receives the tongue of fire from the Holy Spirit. She is among the women followers of Jesus, and must have been seen as a leader to those women. To make sure that Mary has what she needs after Jesus' death, he charges the Beloved Disciple to become Mary's son; this done out of great respect for his mother because at the time of Jesus for a mother to have no sons to care for her or family to return to she was destitute, on the streets!
For us words can carry very negative meanings and we become defensive against them: Words like meekness, humility, they seem like put downs and frankly for many years they were put downs. We must acknowledged a harsh truth that for many generations women were not seen as anything more than servants at Church and in the Home. For younger Catholic women this may not be a problem, but for the moms I journey with who are 45 and older these words sting as if someone had beaten them with rubber hoses! Many of these women came from families where women/moms were looked at as servants, mothers kept quiet while husbands did as they wanted, or fathers read the bible because the women of the house were too "stupid" to understand the scriptures, or moms who truly thought the Church saw Mary as a doormat to which things were done to her not for her.
These moms want to understand how the Church truly sees mothers and women. For the Church Mary is an example of the strong mother and woman, because she was one. She may have been a young teenaged girl when the angel came down to announce the good news but it was Mary who was free to say yes or no. It is not the docile little girl accepting this great challenge from God, but a young woman strong enough in herself and her faith to know she can go the distance with God's help.
It is not a docile little girl who escapes with Joesph to Egypt to start life anew and then return, no, it took some courage and faith to travel all that distance with a small child, and one that was hunted at that! She is no meek mothering push over when she finds Jesus in the temple, oh no, she is calm, controlled and very intent on where Jesus is going, in all senses of that. If you look closely at the pattern Mary is setting you see that she had a calling, but she also defers to her sons calling when needed. God is not asking us to set our calling aside, no! God is calling us to balance our needs with the needs of our children, and sometimes there are going to be sacrifices we must make for the good of our children, but not to lose heart, because our calling is important as well, being a servant leader means to prioritize and put first things first.