The Dean - The Very Revd Andrew Nunn
1 Samuel 1.20-28; 2 Corinthians 1.3-7; John 19.25-27
It’s the strangest Mothering Sunday any of us has known
The shops have been full of flowers and cards and boxes of chocolates, the normal Mothering Sunday gifts, but even if people went to the shops to buy them, delivering to mothers who might be in the vulnerable category of person might not be the best thing to do.
But as I was in the supermarket yesterday – not panic buying, or hamsterkauf as the Germans describe it, hamster shopping – I met a member of the congregation with one of her children buying flowers for the two grannies. They were going to pass the gifts over the fence. Signs of love for those we love.
Mary at the foot of the cross, an image we know so well from art, pain we know so well from the ancient Christian hymn, the Stabat Mater, is a poignant figure to consider on a day such as this.
Mary stands isolated, others are close, John, some of the other women, but most of their friends had deserted them. Yet she is isolated, distanced in her grief. Mary remains, ‘At the cross her station keeping’ as the hymn puts it, ‘close to Jesus at the last’.
It’s the mother’s place and so many women occupy that space in war torn and desperate situations – staying till the last possible moment, attentive to the needs of their children. Mary is the mothering figure, the faithful, vigilant, isolated yet constant figure. She stands there representing so many, their station keeping.
The response of Jesus to her, however, reminds us what’s at the heart of what it is that we’re celebrating today. The flowers and the chocolates and the cards are just pointers to something that’s much more important – and that something is relationship. In their agony Mary and John the beloved disciple, are entrusted to each other, and not in some kind of superficial relationship. Jesus names them as family, as mother, as son. They’re not isolated in their grief, they’re united in a deep and lasting relationship.
‘Woman, here is your son.’ … ‘Here is your mother'.
St Paul, in our Second Reading, points us towards the depths of the relationship that we have. He speaks of God as father, but he also points us to a powerful truth. Paul says that God
‘consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.’
We’re very fearful now of passing anything on, that is why I’m in a comparatively empty cathedral with the doors locked and you’re wherever you are. But Paul says that God wants us to pass something on, something that we have ourselves received – and that is the gift of consolation.
Jesus consoled his Holy Mother as he placed each in the care of the other, John and Mary. God consoles us with grace and love and we are called to console each other, to mother, whoever we are, to be the agent of the overwhelming love of God.
That is why this is Mothering Sunday and not Mothers’ Day, because it’s that deeper quality of what it means to care for and console each other, to stand, often isolated at our station, to be in the painful place, for the other, that’s at the heart of what we give thanks for.
And in this Eucharist God feeds us. The Eucharistic Prayer we will use says
As a mother tenderly gathers her children you embraced a people as your own.
God feeds us, holds us, gathers us, as does a mother, as do those who mother. At such a time as this that is what each of us is called to do. You cannot be here to receive the sacrament with us today but you are not denied the
grace of the sacrament, the food of eternal life, the bread of life, the cup of eternal salvation. The God who mothers you is in relationship with you; God will not let you go hungry, God will not let you go thirsty. God’s deepest desire is for you and, as a mother, shows each of us how we too can mother today. In the days, weeks, months that lie ahead that is what we have to do.