01 January 2007

MOTHERHOOD AND MEMORY


Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Lk 2:16-21

Do you know Rose Kennedy? The last name rings a bell, does it not? Yes, she is the mother of the very charismatic and only Catholic President of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy or commonly called “JFK”.

Rose Kennedy is a one of a kind mother. She lived past her nineties and witnessed her children’s days of triumph and tragedy. No woman other than Rose, so far in the annals of American history, had three sons who became U.S. senators, one of which is JFK who later became a resident of the White House. All her three sons, however, she also lost in tragic deaths: Joe Jr. in a plane crash while John and Bobby in separate assassinations. But through it all, Rose kept her faith. What gave her the strength?

When interviewed once, Rose Kennedy remarked, “I have always believed that God never gives a cross to bear larger than we can carry. I believe in heaven and expect to see my husband, Joe, there, my three sons, and my daughter, Kathleen.” Moreover, reviewing her life, she said, “I would rather have been the mother of a great son than to have written a great book or painted a great masterpiece.”

Today we honor a greater mother of a greater Son: Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. She, too, like Rose, saw her Son’s moments of triumph and tragedy. But Mary’s Son is no ordinary son. And so Mary is no ordinary mother. Her Son is God’s own Son. And so Mary is God’s own mother. Not that she gave divine personhood to her Son but that her Son favored her with divine motherhood. More than honor, but less than adoration, we venerate Mary, the Mother of God, today.

Great mothers have great memories. Both Rose reflected on her motherhood while Mary, as the Gospel today tells us, kept all things in her heart and pondered on them. It is a very painful experience for anyone of us if our aging mother can no longer remember our names or the life we once shared with them. It seems that motherhood and memories go perfectly together. Mothers like Rose and Mary seem to be keepers, not only of family secrets, but of family memories as well. They keep family memories not only by remembering them but also by reminding us of them whenever needed and, after reflecting on them, providing meaning and value to whatever we face in life as we grow.

Because motherhood and memories go together, mothers keep alive the family heritage and traditions. They do not only engage in periodic nostalgia about the past, but, most importantly, pass on to us the stories about our ancestors so that no matter how far we go and tall we grow, we remain rooted in our beginnings that tempers our pride but challenges our potentials to contribute our own part to a collective family history. Mothers do not only pass on life to us; they give us our memories.

Mothers give us our memories by both words and deeds. They give us our memories by telling and retelling our family history. But by every single kind word, by even the minutest token of affection, by each gesture of love, by the most silent presence and the loudest celebration ever in the family, mothers likewise give us our memories. These memories eventually become very deeply part of us that we may say we ourselves become our memories. Yesterday’s memories walk and talk today and continue to evolve in us.

Because the memories our mothers give us take on flesh and blood in us, they provide us bearing in our moments of triumph and strength in our moments of tragedy. They guide us in our confusion and help us leave our own good memories to our children and even our children’s children.

As another year begins, Mama Mary stands by our side. With her one hand, she holds our hands while the other points to her Son to remind us of our glorious heritage, which St. Paul describes thus, “God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba! (Father!)’” (Gal 4:6). So we are not slaves but sons and daughters; Thus, heirs of God’s kingdom.

It is very good to be reminded of our collective, glorious family heritage in Christ as another year begins because the humdrum of daily routine and the struggles of human survival may easily obscure our memory. It is fitting that we dedicate the first day of the year to the motherhood of Mary, for she, who once pondered in her heart the things told her by the shepherds in Bethlehem, reminds us today of the core message of Christmas: at the birth of Jesus, the soul felt its worth.

JFK had a great mother with a great memory. But in Mary of Nazareth, we have a greater mother with a greater memory. May Mary, the mother of God and the keeper of the story of Jesus, inspire and help us contribute our own part to our collective, glorious, family heritage in Christ.

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