How does my mum know, without me telling her, when I need new socks and boxers? There are many mysteries of the universe: for me this is one of the most mysterious.
How does she know? She hasn’t seen the inside of my drawer. Maybe there is a top secret sophisticated surveillance operation that she runs out of her sewing room with my father. But I don’t think so.
And yet somehow, not every birthday and Christmas, but on occasions when my holy socks were more like holey socks and I was thinking it was time to pick up some new ones, I am presented with a few pairs of black socks bought on special at Target.
I’m not making light of a little thing: life is precious, and it’s important to take time to meditate, and value, the gifts of life—like why mums are important, and what we don’t have when they’re not there. Because being a mum is a profoundly godly thing.
This might sound like a funny thing to say: surely the Church thinks priests and nuns express God better. Not really: while consecrated life is a priceless gift and reminder instituted by Jesus 2000 years ago, being a mum is a far more ancient creation and reflection of God, a far more primordial one, anchored in the very flesh and soul of the first woman.
This came out three times in last Sunday’s Gospel: “I will not leave you orphans.” And again: “because I live and you will live.” And again: “I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.”
That God, pure spirit, has maternal characteristics should not be a shock: he is, after all, the origin of motherhood. This doesn’t mean God is a mum: Jesus is unequivocally clear in the gospels—he, Jesus, is a man, and we are to address God as “Father”.
But it does mean that mums are a finite and visible sign of the infinite invisible reality that every human being is made for and called to and aches for: to remain secure and protected within the infinite love and persons of God.
Through not only their biology, but by the invisible choice they make which becomes visibly expressed in their body and in the acts they pose through their body, especially when carrying us around for nine months, whatever the cost to their own body and sickness and tiredness—in a way which beautifully reflects the bodily and spiritual gift of himself that Jesus makes in Holy Week.
This is why being a mum is a sacred thing: not only because they are in the image of what God does for us, not only because it is a mission that God asks of some women, but also because mums give their own flesh for us. Like in Holy Communion, they give us their own flesh that we might live, and grow, and enter into life.
In this way, without mums, there is no us, no society, and no country. Unlike socially invented institutions, being a mum is – after a) God and b) marriage, and along with being a dad, part of the very fabric of how God deliberately laid out creation.
The maternal characteristics that motherhood expresses biologically, psychologically and spiritually are thus not only eternally precious and universally valuable for all times and places but the foundation and condition of any human society.
This is why whatever the situation, we owe every mother, especially our own, the greatest respect and honour. Blokes sometimes get funny ideas about how to be a real man.
So I give you a reminder: real men respect their mum. And all mums. Whatever else may have happened, they don’t scream at her, humiliate her, abuse her in any way, or rip her off financially when she starts getting elderly. A real man always carefully honours his mother.
It’s one reason why every second Catholic church, school, seminary, university, and hospital is placed under a title of the Virgin Mary—not simply because without her we don’t have Jesus, but because Catholics, more than any other institution, honour maternity, recognise how every human heart needs maternal care, and value each mum as an infinitely precious and totally irreplaceable gift of God to us.
So let’s thank God today for creating motherhood, for giving us our mums, and let’s pray for them, be they living or dead, that God bless them, help them, and bring them into the eternal version of the earthly life they gave us.