- The Rev. Thomas A. Momberg
Jesus is Our Mother The Sixth Sunday of Easter
I don’t know if it was in Shillitos’ or McAlpins.’ I don’t remember how young a
boy I was. I do know that I was afraid, scared of being lost. My mother said something
like, “Honey, I’ll be right back,” and after a bit of time passed, I remember wondering if
I’d lost her or she had left me. But she did not abandon me in that big, downtown
department store. With the help of an employee, my mom and I had a tearful reunion.
“When were you orphaned?” When I was asked that unexpected question, I was a
new resident chaplain, a student in Clinical Pastoral Education, the training program for
those who want to be certified, professional chaplains. We were about to be assigned a
book to read about what it means, as an adult, to have lost both of your parents. After
both your parents have died, the book suggested, you are like an orphan.
I remember thinking after reading that book that the concept made sense. But I
really didn’t see myself that way. Both of my parents were still alive. After my mother
died at the end of 2010 and my father in early 2015, I remembered that book, and I got
it. I began to understand what being orphaned might feel like.
When I hear the word “orphan,” I still think about young children. I still think of
children living together in an orphanage. In a novel by Nobel Prize-winning author
Kazuo Ishiguro, we find a helpful description of what being orphaned as a child is like:
“To be orphaned represents the loss of security, sense of safety, and stability that
should characterize the process of growing up for children. Furthermore, becoming an
orphan places the child in a separate category from other children with families, which
the person never seems to grow out of” (When We Were Orphans).
The Bible speaks clearly about orphans. “You shall not abuse any widow or
orphan,” God says in the social and religious laws laid down in the Old Testament book
of Exodus. And in the New Testament, we find a definition of true religion: “to care for
orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). There are also several references to
fatherless children (Psalm 68:5; Isaiah 1:17).
Of course, in Bible times, children and their mothers were the property of men
and fathers. The Biblical exhortation to care for widows and orphans was directed to
men. It seems we fathers have always needed, at the very least, a nudge - by mothers
and by God - to do the right thing when it comes to the children of the world. It is the
mothers of the world, in Jesus’ day and in our own time, who tend to be the primary
parents of a child, especially an orphan, regardless of a mother’s marital status.
Today is Mother’s Day. We celebrate mothers today. But not every woman, not
every mother loves this holiday. Anne Lamott, a writer and mother, puts it this way:
“My main gripe about Mother’s Day is that it feels incomplete and imprecise. The main
thing that ever helped mothers was other people mothering them, including aunties and
brothers…(It’s) a chain of mothering that keeps the whole (thing) afloat” (Facebook).
The way I’ve put it, for years, is this: We can’t have too many mothers, fathers, sisters,
and brothers in our lives.
So, I wonder: Who might be one of your other mothers? If you’re not coming up
with an answer to that question, let me suggest someone: Jesus. Here’s why: On
Monday, the church around the world recognized Saint Julian of Norwich. She was the
first woman known to write in the English language. We’re not sure whether she was a
nun, a widow, or someone who had lost a child. She was surely one of the great spiritual
guides, sharing her wisdom with all those who came to see her.
Julian’s best known book is called “Revelations of Divine Love.” Her strong,
vibrant faith shines through that book, especially when she states that, for her, “all shall
be well, and all manner of things shall be exceedingly well.” She also says that “as surely
as God is our Father, God is also our Mother” and that Jesus, specifically, is our mother.
Here’s what she says about Mother Jesus: “The mother can give her child…milk,
but our precious Mother Jesus can feed us with himself, and does, most courteously and
most tenderly, with the blessed sacrament, which is the precious food of true life.” Jesus
gives us a kind of birth: new life. Jesus is definitely in touch with his divine feminine.
hear how Jesus will not abandon us. We will not lose Jesus in a department store
or anywhere else. Wherever we go, Jesus is there. That’s what this part of his last words
to his followers in John is all about. Jesus says, ”I will not leave you orphaned; I am
coming to you” (14:18). The mother love of Jesus never ends.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, you are a child of God. And if you are a follower of
Jesus, you’ll never be abandoned by him, the one who said, “Let the little children come
to me and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven
belongs” (Matthew 19:14). Jesus will not leave you orphaned, even if your relationship
with your mother was a good one. Or if you’ve lost your earthly mother. Or if you never
really knew your mother. Or if your relationship with your mother was a broken one.
And if you are a mother, or someone who longs to be a mother, or a mother who
has lost a child, or someone who has chosen not to have children, or a mother in a
broken relationship with your child, Jesus has not and will not abandon or orphan you
or your children. No matter how threatened your safety, security, or stability may be, no
matter how alone you may feel, Mother Jesus is always there for you and for me.
As I finish my first year as your priest, I know without a doubt that the mothers
and fathers and sisters and brothers of All Saints’ are there for you, too. Thank God for
Mother Jesus and all the mothers in our lives. Because, in this sinful and broken world,
we need all the mothers and moms we can find right now, more than ever. AMEN.
~ The Rev. Thomas A. Momberg
All Saints’, Memphis , TN
May 14, 2023