To be honest, this is not the reflection I was expecting to write for Mothering Sunday this year. Some connections with he Mother Church (and there are various versions of what that should be); some comparisons between our human mothers and the church; some meaningful discussion on the role of Mary as the Mother of Christ; all these seem inappropriate and unhelpful in the face of where we are as a nation and a world.
We have all be swept up in the Covid 19 outbreak. A week ago, it all seemed pretty innocuous, something that was happening elsewhere and to other people. We would be safe and insulated from it in our various homes and places of work. Our community remained remote, aloof even, from the madness of down south!
A week later and the world looks and feels like a very different place. The systems we have around us to bring food and other essentials are under strain. The services that provide our healthcare are gearing up for something the like of which we haven’t seen before. Our fixation on travel and movement, even the economic underpinnings of all we do. All these seem suddenly to be like the house built on sand and it seems like the rain clouds are gathering to sweep all away.
But actually, Mothering Sunday is worth still thinking on. Instead of the readings, let’s start with the Collect:
God of compassion,
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth,
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:
strengthen us in our daily living
that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence
to bind together and to heal;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
At these difficult times, it is more important than ever to remember, no matter how difficult, that we worship a God of compassion. We cannot know or understand what is going on to lead to our current situation, but we trust that, through all this, God is compassionate and has shared a human life in Jesus. We must also remember that His human life was constantly framed in suffering and hard-won progress. Life expectancy was short. Most people lived hand to mouth (although some were very rich). There was no safety net outside family apart, of course, from the religious institutions. And the very heart of that network of care and compassion was the mother.
Just as on the cross, Jesus drew the whole human family to Himself, so the mother drew the family to herself. And now is the time to draw to each other in love and support, care and compassion – always observing social distancing of course! Because in coming together in love we will be stronger. We will be stronger in prayer, stronger in practical things, stronger in community, stronger in faith.
If we are strong, if we lovingly care, if we are seen to be people with a profound sense of love and compassion, then , not only will we know the power of His presence, we will show the power of His presence. We will show the presence of God in our homes and families, in our communities, in our places of work, in our church life. This is going to be different and more difficult as we won’t be together. We will need to find different ways of standing alongside each other in a faith community. There will be obstacles but there will also be new-found ways of engaging, who knows we even may go back to writing the occasional letter or two.
If that is the collect, then I was also struck by the alternative second reading of 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. In this passage the words affliction and suffering are used 4 times which could make for a gloomy read. However, the words consolation or console are used 10 times (at least in the NRSV). So while we are tempted to concentrate on our affliction at the moment, we must remember that our consolation is in the Lord and that our consolation far outweighs our afflictions – even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.
There have been times in the past where I have lost sight of that consolation and concentrated on the affliction. Those have been the darkest of times and it is only when I have been able to return my gaze on the consolation that the sun has come out and the light of life has returned. It is difficult to see that the consolation will return, and there are many difficult and tragic events to pass before we get to that point, but it will come. We will all suffer, none of us will be immune from what is going on around us. Some will suffer more than others, but it is all our calling to rest in the compassion of the Lord and accept His consolation.
So on this very different mothering Sunday, stop and pray for each of us, our mothers, those whom we mother (or father or just care for). Say the collect to yourself, slowly, mulling every word, and let our prayer for compassion be brought to life to reflect in the world around us. Let us care for our neighbour and think of those whose need is greater than our own.
And let us remember that Jesus Christ is alive and does reign now and forever.
Written by Barrie Cran, one of our lay readers.