It is not those who commit the least faults who are most holy, but those who have the greatest courage, the greatest generosity, the greatest love, who make the boldest efforts to overcome themselves, and are not immoderately apprehensive of tripping.
St. Frances de Sales
One of the biggest challenges mothers of young children come across is that of isolation. We are up at all hours of the night. Our activities are curtailed by nap times. And don't get me started about having to deal with two children on different nap schedules! There are days I barely leave the house.
And then what happens when you want to meet with friends? If your friends have young children as well then it's a whole new set of nap times and rounds of colds. And when you do get together? Anarchy. My point? We sacrifice quite a bit and it mostly goes unnoticed and unappreciated.
If this isn't enough most mothers, whether working outside of the home or not, are continually challenged to go out into the world and make a quantifiable difference in society. Even when I had a newborn baby in my arms I had people asking me when I was going to get a "real" job. (I told these people that my child could not pay taxes for their pension or health care if the child grew to up to be on government assistance or in prison because of parental neglect. Some people.)
My point? Lots of people have opinions and advice as to how you should live your life and raise your children. Many of these people are supportive and encouraging. Others, those know-it-alls who see children, even their own, as burdens, can drive you crazy. Sometimes it's hard to focus on or know what is truly important. So being the Marian moms that we are we turn to Jesus for help and direction.
The Judgment of the Nations. (Matthew 34:31-46)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36
naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
39 When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ 40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ 46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
All right! I can hear the screeches and groans from here. "Geez, Theology Mom, more judgment? As if we're not judged on a daily basis about the kind of diapers we put our children in! And apocalyptic judgment? I can barely get through the day and you're talking to me about all sorts of charity work that I just can't manage right now. Talk to me after I get a full night's sleep. I'm off to eat chocolate ice cream out of the container."
I hear you, Sisters! What I am going to say is not original. In fact there is a beautiful reflection based on the above scripture passage. I heard it once but have been unable to find it again. If you happen to know it please send it to me. Since I don't have the original reflection I will paraphrase it.
A mother dies and is surprised to find herself in heaven.
"Jesus", asks she, "not that I'm complaining, but how did I come to be worthy of this"?
"Good mother," says He, "when I was hungry you gave me food."
"Lord, that is not possible. There were so many hungry in the world and I barely had presence of mind to take a dusty can of food out of my pantry for a food drive. Tell me, when did I feed you?"
"In the middle of the night I cried because I did not have words. You sacrificed your sleep to feed me. But there is more. When I was a stranger you welcomed me"
"But Lord, when were you a stranger to me and I welcomed you?"
"When your body was not your own and rejected food. When I was placed in your arms and you were terrified of the responsibilities ahead. When you resented me for your loss of personal freedom until your body healed and still you allowed the seeds of love to bear fruit. That love was a choice. But there is more. When I was in prison you visited me."
"Lord, I have never stepped foot inside a prison!"
"Mother, I was imprisoned in a helpless body, unable to comprehend my most basic needs, hoping that somebody would pick me up and love and nurture me so that I could grow. You have done these things. Come, share my joy!"
(I would like to take the opportunity to thank those mothers who, unable to care for their own children, had the strength and faith to give them up for adoption. Some of those children have blessed my own family. Several adopted children continue to bless my life with their friendship. Also a special thank you to mothers who welcome adopted and foster children into their homes. May God continue to bless you!)
Yes, Ladies, we will by judged by God. The good news is that He will never ask us if our children wore the latest designer clothes or had the newest toys. The challenging news is that we must give much more of ourselves. Our consolation is that Jesus will guide our steps if we allow it.
We do not have to do great things to prove our worth. That is the judgment of the world. In Jesus our worth is beyond measure. Our sacrifices are met with respect and gratitude. Our suffering has meaning. (More on the Suffering God later.)
Mother Teresa said that if you want lasting peace in the world go home and love your family.
Now go take care of some of the most helpless in society. I am off to take care of my teething baby before she wakes the other children. Again. Or bang my head against the wall. Probably both.
May God continue to bless you!