This weekend we individually and collectively stop to remember our own mothers and all who bear the privilege and responsibility of motherhood. Prayers are offered, gifts are purchased, flowers are delivered, meals are shared. These are nice touches for a demanding, all-consuming task.
I can remember the days of homemade gifts and corsages — accepted and worn proudly by my mother. I remember my siblings and I “chipping together” to purchase a gift. I remember the cards purchased and the personal notes written. This will be the 8th Mother’s Day without my mother, my mom present with me here on earth. Oh how I remember her, miss, her — and think of all the things she did for me, who she was, and what she still means to me. I pray through her intercession, I call on her for help.
After many years of pastoring — and after a few years of working in the legal system — I know that it takes so much more than giving birth to be a “real” mother. Sure, giving biological birth — adopting a child — raising a child —- might all qualify technically for being a mother —– to really be a mother, takes so much more.
To be a mother requires getting beneath the skin and into the heart — mother’s feel — they feel joy and sorrow — they feel relief and fear — they feel hope and doubt. Being a mother means that you feel for your children even if you have no idea what they are into. Mothers might want to quit — but they don’t. To be a mother — means you might just have to be a little crazy. Mothers just do not dis-connect.
There are lots of things about mothers and shepherds that are alike.
Pope Francis has told bishops, priests — anyone who wants to minister — that they have to be with their sheep — they actually need to smell like the sheep.
A mother can never forget her child — a real shepherd’s mind is never far from the sheep. To be a pastor — a shepherd — a man or a woman — has to decide that he/she will do whatever it takes to make sure the sheep are fed, cared for, sheered, safe — they literally protect and serve.
Walk into any store — look around — it is easy to identify those who are there to serve customers and those that are there because they want a job and a paycheck. Look around the store — it is easy to tell if those who work there care about the building and about those who walk in — and those who check-in and check-out without being able to tell you anything about those who were in the store that day.
There is a vast difference between doing some good deeds and helping some people — and being a shepherd. There is a vast difference between dropping a child off at school, picking them up, and making sure there is food on the table —– and being a real mother, a mom who cares.
Mothers cry real tears. Shepherds sweat. Mothers listen — and so do shepherds. Mothers practice what they teach —- shepherds walk the talk. Mothers and shepherds never really know when “enough is enough.” Mothers hug —- shepherds embrace.
Children need mothers — our churches need pastors, shepherds. Before one becomes a mother —- before one becomes a pastor — serious thought ought to be given. Once the child is born — and once one begins ministry — the seriousness of the task can never be forgotten.
A newborn child quickly responds to sound. Early on, the child recognizes the sound of his mother’s voice. Shortly thereafter, the child can distinguish between the voice of a mother, a sibling, a man, a stranger.
In today’s Church, the faithful are wiser and jaded. Church-goers distinguish between those who dress like a shepherd and those who know THE SHEPHERD and are a shepherd. Folks in the pew know who “play dress up for church” and those who live and breathe the life of a shepherd.
A healthy community is filled with loving, caring, dedicated mothers who sacrifice for their children. A healthy Church is served by men and women who love, care, and are dedicated to the people.