To be a mother is a unique task

Mothers’ Day sermon by The Very Reverend Roger Dawson,
Bishop of St. Mary’s Anglican Catholic Cathedral, Caracas

Each one of us has opportunities in this life but not all of us use what we have to create opportunities for others or have the ability to create new chances, breaks and prospects for others as mothers do for their children. To be a mother is a unique task that we men cannot share in exactly the same way. Even male single parents who attempt to be mother and father have to admit they are never quite the same as a mother. That is OK, because mothers cannot become quite like fathers, but today I want to dwell on what mothers are in our society. This is not, I hasten to add, a competition between the sexes. Anything you can do, I can do better. It is just to highlight the special attributes that mothers can have and the special opportunities that come to them rather than to other members of the family group.

Fathers have an equal part in the creation of children, but after this it becomes the mother’s role to grow the child and release it into the world. It maybe an uncomfortable nine months full of heartburn, varicose veins and stretch marks but these eventually give way to joy and happiness for probably a dozen years. The next seven could be problematic and then, hopefully, these little people blossom into caring and responsible adults who tower over us and treat us as though our minds have slipped and we have entered into our second childhood.

It is at this point we begin to see if we have done a good job of providing, not just food for their physical needs but the spiritual wisdom and moral fiber of which true Christian people are built. It is perhaps too late to ask if we neglected our children and left them to raise themselves but what is almost certain is that they copied us more likely than anyone else. What we see in our children is a reflection of ourselves and if that scares us then think how much we scare them and the other people around us.

Our society has organized itself in such a way that fathers go out early in the morning and return late at night, so that in the early formative years of a child’s life he is hardly to be seen except as a figure of mystery and authority who has to deal with what mother cannot. In this kind of household the children, and their mother, are thrown together and it is the mother who carries the greatest responsibility to see that the child or children are raised well. You are now probably asking ‘what does a well raised child look like or act like?’

The answer lies in a remark that Jesus made to his disciples when a crowd of noisy children came running and screaming around them as they tried to set up their stand in a market place. ‘Don’t chase away the children,’ he said, ‘because if we are to enter the kingdom we have to become like them.’ Children in the Israel of Jesus’ day are not like today’s children. They were not entertained as a regular habit with cd’s and television and play stations. They couldn’t surf the net or go to their room to be by themselves and read a book. First of all they had daily tasks to do for the household and secondly they had no rights under the law. It is to these two conditions of childhood that Jesus was referring. He is saying that the people who enter the kingdom have responsibilities to the community in which they live and they are dependent upon their father for their physical needs.

When adulthood arrives with age we should retain our obligation to society and now instead of relying upon our natural fathers for food and clothing we should look to God who is also our father. However, although he said that we should look to our fathers that was only because his society only allowed men to earn money. It was almost impossible for women to earn money except through prostitution. Women in his society, and this still holds true in many societies today, women were the ones who taught the children to be integrated into the community and gave them appropriate jobs to do dependent upon their age and size and sex. The role of mothers still revolves around this task of bringing the children to know what to do in community, initially that is in the close family. This gives the mother a huge responsibility and yet at the same time it is a fantastic opportunity to shape part of the next generation.

Society and community structures have changed since the first century and women can and do work and both fathers and mothers share more in the development of their children but there is a danger that one can leave it to the other and when both fall into that trap the child raises itself and that isn’t a great solution. However it is the mother’s peculiarly special role of carrying the child and delivering him or her into the arms of the waiting world that gives her a unique opportunity to develop a bonding relationship with her children that can help them meet the demands the world will surely make upon them in the coming years.

Whether our own mothers were good at this or not, we owe them a debt of gratitude, for most mothers love their children and want the best for them, and within the confines of their own education and understanding they work hard to achieve the best in and for their children. So today we applaud their work and wisdom and thank them for all that they are to us.

We pray for those mothers who have failed themselves and their offspring for whatever reason and we hope that the work that we carry on in our community will go some way to make up for what others have lost. After all this is the first part of Jesus’ charge to enter the kingdom by becoming children of our heavenly father.

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