by Joan Winchester
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 14, 2017
Listen to Joan's reflection.
I’m So excited for you– I know you have been working hard to learn all you can about what it means to receive Jesus in Communion –
When you were baptized, your parents made a promise to raise you in our Catholic Faith – They chose that for you because they value their own relationship with God and they want you to have a special relationship with Jesus too. So, you have been studying and learning about how we believe that Jesus is present to us in the bread and wine, right?
As I was thinking about what I would say today, I started thinking about how I am fed through my faith –
1 The people – I’m pretty tight with many people in this church and in the wider Community of people of faith, and with people who strive to make the world a better place – Through these relationships I am fed and inspired. I hope you have friends here too.
2 – Through the readings – what we heard today and what we learn throughout the bible and other sacred text – the stories in scripture handed down over thousands of years that help me begin to understand how God operates – how God wants me to operate
3 – Through communion – Did you learn how we believe Jesus is present in three ways during our mass? In the gathered people – In the Word of God– In the Bread and wine –
We are fed. In this meal – we are nourished and filled so hopefully we can become more like Jesus – Just as today’s Gospel calls us to do good works in the name of Jesus.
What if you only ate things like candy and pizza – what would happen?
You would probably be sick – right – you wouldn’t get the vitamins your body needs to stay healthy and to grow –
Well, that’s how I see communion – food for my soul- food that feeds me and helps me live well the rest of the week - I am fed – in these three ways – through my relationships – the word of God – bread and wine
Remember I said the scriptures teach me how God operates and how God wants me to operate? Well, after I’m fed by this communion, then I have a responsibility – in a way it’s like our first reading today when the first disciples of Jesus anointed others to help them teach about Jesus – I have to go out in the world and live the way God wants me to live – To teach about Jesus.
I’m not a great teacher. And, yet I understand there are many ways to teach – St. Francis is known to have said “Preach the Gospel always – If necessary use words. I ask myself – how does the life I’m leading reflect the love of Jesus in our world today? We each do this in a way that is unique to us – because we each have different gifts.
I used to tell my children that God gives each of us special gifts – and I believe it is a sin to not use those gifts – Maybe you are good with words, maybe you’re an artist or a musician. Think about how you are using your gifts in a way that makes the world better. Maybe it’s helping your parents at home – being a good role model for your younger brothers or sisters – studying hard at school – whatever – We all have a responsibility in this communion – or this union – and if we are open to it, we can be inspired to become more like Jesus in our world today.
It’s a hard thing to understand, this communion – You probably understand a bit about what it means to receive Jesus in this special way – We all come to understand more and more throughout our lives.
Just as we are each unique, God shows up for us in unique ways. Julian of Norwich – a mystic in our church, described God in many ways. I really like this story: Here, I have this little thing (children are handed hazelnuts) – can you hold it in your hand while I tell you this story:
And in this God showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed to me, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: What can this be? I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that because of its littleness it would suddenly have fallen into nothing. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has been through the love of God.
In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third is that God preserves it. But what did I see in it? It is that God is the Creator and the protector and the lover.
May communion for you always be a reminder of your union with our loving God and encourage you to help show God’s love through your actions.
I’m going to shift gears now and ask you if you know of anything else we might be celebrating today? I was asked to talk today because it’s Mother’s Day and I am a mother – My kids are here today – Lindsay, Cameron and my soon to be daughter in law Liz – These three young people who get my love, advice and care and worry even when they don’t want it! They have taught me a lot along the way and continue to teach me about unconditional love – and some other stuff too like technology, music trends, fashion, and other modern day tools!!
Having children helped me understand a little bit better what God must feel for each of us – this boundless love that is difficult to understand –
I’m not going to talk specifically about my kids – instead I will try to describe how being a mother has changed me –
I realized early on that as much as I had to teach with my words – I also had to teach by example. That’s how I went into motherhood. Thinking I now was in charge of these little people and responsible for giving them what they needed to live meaningful, productive lives. Now, having had 32 years to reflect, I am very aware of what I have learned and received from this intense love -
I do hope that the priorities I made in my life taught my kids what is important, at least what is important to me.
For me, wanting to lead by example led me away from the corporate work I was engaged in when I got pregnant, to doing work that I hope has made a real difference in the lives of others – I worked here at St. Charles for nearly 23 years – Now I work for L’Arche, an International Nonprofit of people with and without intellectual disability who live together in intentional communities of faith– This is my work.
My marriage and motherhood are my vocation –
In Psalm 139 we hear:
- For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
As mothers, we are the first feeders of our babies, even before they come into this world in a physical way –we nourish and care for our children by caring for ourselves during the nine months of pregnancy.
We go on then to feed our children physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And we do this as best we can. Not perfectly – not without mistakes – but again – hopefully with every good intention.
What have I learned from motherhood? – So much:
All this helped me appreciate my own mother so much. And to think of God’s love as that of a parent -
Our holy text usually refers to God as Father – And so it is for many a comforting image – For others it can feel exclusive – or un-relatable.
From the US Catholic Magazine, Author Katherine Attanasi states:
Most Christians are familiar with referring to God as Father, but can we call God “Mother”? Many places in the Bible and Christian tradition as well as theological voices answer this question affirmatively: God can be referred to as “Mother.” In fact, every recent pope since John Paul I has made some reference to the value of understanding God like a mother.
Attanasi goes on to say:
God’s creation of humans—male and female—in God’s own image signifies that God is the fullness of masculinity and femininity; God transcends gender binaries and constructions. According to feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson, women’s creation in God’s image means that women’s realities offer helpful metaphors for describing “divine mystery.”
Understanding God as “Mother” and drawing on the maternal images of God found in scripture and Christian tradition illuminate important aspects of God’s character. We are reminded that although there are limits to every metaphor, God’s love, comfort, and care know no bounds.
Whatever words we use to describe our indescribable God, How we live our lives, is a reflection of how much we are committed to this God we come to worship each week. We continue to be invited to show God’s love in the world. Meister Eckart says it well:
We are all called to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.
So, my little friends, today God invites you into communion with God in a new way – Many of us in this room remember our own first communion day – May it be a special day you hold in your memory forever-
And in the midst of this glorious day, remember it is also a day to especially thank your Mothers for working hard on a day that might have been typically celebrated with you bringing her breakfast in bed – not so today, right?
Instead, if your mom is here with you, she rejoices again in this huge day for you. Just as she celebrated your first full night of sleep, your first step, the first word you read on your own, the first good deed you did without prompting from her.
You are a gift without measure to your mom. One she wouldn’t trade breakfast in bed every day for – you are God’s most precious gift to her– and as I do for my own children, I’m sure she prays for you in gratitude and care every day.
So, take a minute to hug her, thank her, and love her up – for just as each of us is loved by God in a way that we cannot see or fully understand, so do your mom’s love you.
Finally I return to the words of Julian of Norwich and offer them as a blessing and a reminder for our first communicants and to all you mothers out there:
God made you
God loves you
God preserves you.