"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1.8). this was the injunction which Christ gave to His Apostles shortly before He was taken up to heaven in their sight. This injunction was carried out faithfully by the Apostles and their successors. Hence, the Church has continued to carry out this duty of witnessing all through her history.
The Second Vatican Council, when speaking in Lumen Gentium, about the Church as the people of God said: "The Holy People of God share also in Christ's prophetic office. It spreads abroad a living witness to him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give honour to his name" (no 12), It is therefore, the whole Church, as the People of God that has the vocation of witnessing to Christ in the world.
This is the starting point of my reflection of the above topic as we celebrate Mothering Sunday. Witnessing is an essential element of the Christian message.
Bearing Authentic Witness
All baptised, and in fact all men and women of goodwill are to bear witness to authentic values, to Christ and His teaching. The Christian concept of witness goes beyond testifying in a case or giving evidence. It is based on personal and immediate knowledge of a fact, or experience. According to John Hardon, in Modern Catholic Dictonary, The Christian concept of witness adds to the popular notion the idea of a religious experience to which a believer testifies by his life, words, and actions, and thus gives inspiration and example to others by testimony.
The social mission or ministry of Christian parents was beautifully summarized in the Second Vatican Council's Gravissimum Educationis On Christian Education. According to the Church Fathers, the role of parents as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. For it devolves on parents to create a family that well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of those social virtues every society needs.
In my opinion, this summarizes the vocation of mothers in homes. Nevertheless, the work or skill of mothers in raising a child or children is another way of fulfilling the mission of all the baptized, which is to spread the Gospel of love through good works. Indeed how beautiful to believe, for to believe is to say "YES" to Christ, and to say "yes" to Christ is to bear witness to our faith in action.
But what exactly is the essence of this "Yes"? More specifically, how is one to live it as a mother?
In regard to the first question, this "Yes" is quite simply the "Yes" of faith. It is our full, unmitigated acceptance of Jesus as Lord and our commitment to following him as the master and teacher. Indeed, the word "Yes" only makes sense within the context of a dialogue between persons; someone who utters the "Yes" and someone who accepts it. In the case of faith, the person to whom we utter this "Yes" is no other than the Son of God, the anointed one, the Eternal Word made fresh.
Mary, the mother of Jesus exemplified this, in the days of old in her humble disposition but sure response to Arch-angel Gabriel, the Lord's heavenly messenger in Nazareth: fiat â€“ "Yes". St Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles on his way to Damascus, said "Yes" with his life. This is the case with St Maximillian Kolbe, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and other men and women who bore witness to this "Yes" of Jesus Christ through the exemplary lives they lived.
In regard to the second question, The Conciliar Fathers of the Second Vatican Council provided an adequate answer to how one can live out this "Yes" as a mother in the Gravissimum Educationis, that "As it is the parents who give life to their children, on them lies the gravest obligation of educating their family. They must therefore recognize as being primarily and principally responsible for their education. The role of parents in education is of such importance, that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute. It is therefore the duty of the parents to create a family, atmosphere inspired by love and devotion to God and their fellow-men and women, which will promote an integrated, personal and social education of their children. It is therefore above all in the Christian family, inspired by the grace and responsibility of matrimony, that the children should be taught to know and worship God and to love their neighbour, in accordance with the faith which they have received in earliest infancy in the sacrament of baptism. Mothers should therefore, appreciate how important a role the truly Christian family plays in the life and progress of the whole people of God."
If mothers are to carry out their parental responsibilities, witnessing to the "Yes" of the Gospel, it then means that, they must first know Christ. They must take seriously St Paul's exhortation in his letter to the Philippians 4:7 ". . . let your minds be filled with everything that is true, everything that is upright and pure, everything that we love and admire-with whatever that is good and praise worthy". St Augustine's mother St Monica understood this succinctly and was always on her knees storming heaven for the conversion of Augustine.
This reflection will not be justified without the mentioning of Blessed Pope John Paul II's letter of solidarity and gratitude to women on the eve of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing. Borrowing his words, I thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become Gods own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child's first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life" (no 2).
Thank you, every mother, for the simple fact of being a mother! Through the insight which is so much a part of your motherhood you enrich the world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.
It is my wish to inspire a greater understanding that it is indeed splendid to be a mother! The psalmist says children are a gift from the Lord and happy who fills his quiver with them. As mothers we are never left alone; first there is God, who is always with us. Secondly, we are always forming a great community among ourselves (co-creators); a community on a journey with a project for the future. This is the joy of being a mother: it is beautiful and right to believe. May we always firmly remain committed to this "YES" â€“ "Yes" to Christ who is the "Yes" to all our hopes and our desires, "Yes" to the Church, "Yes" to our communities (society) and but most importantly "Yes" to our families.
HAPPY MOTHERS SUNDAY!