Motherhood, a pilgrimage of love: A homily for the Solemnity of the Ascension

momI am happy to report that we had a wonderful turnout at the Race for Vocations.  We had 96 runners of the 5K or the mini.  We came in just behind Fr. Rick’s group at St. John’s. They had 106. Of course, they did the counting….  But, we are overjoyed at the turnout. My knees are killing me. I was hoping Msgr. would bring me breakfast in bed this morning, but, just like for many of you mothers out there….that hope didn’t quite come to pass.

Today we celebrate the Lord Christ’s ascension into heaven.  It is funny to see children’s depictions of this feast, with Jesus’ shoes hanging from the clouds.  God love them. But it is a beautiful thing, what we celebrate today. Yesterday evening in Vespers, the Church’s liturgy had the most beautiful phrase to describe God’s coming from heaven to earth and his return from earth to heaven, and that phrase is this: a pilgrimage of love. A pilgrimage of love, that is what God set himself upon in his love for us. It took him from heaven to earth and back to heaven. And he makes this same pilgrimage for our sake all the time, every single time that heaven comes to earth or earth goes to heaven. And all that happens every day, at our daily Eucharist of course, but also in smaller ways–a hug, a smile, a note, a kind word–all of these are pieces of heaven coming to rest on earth, which somehow beautifully float their way back to the heavens.  All of this is made possible by Christ’s pilgrimage of love.

Motherhood is also a holy and sacred pilgrimage of love.  It is a pilgrimage that takes a woman to soccer games, track meets, bowling alleys, church events, and birthday parties. This pilgrimage of love treks across muddy playgrounds and across football fields and into doctor’s offices and drug stores. The pilgrimage takes a mom to movie theaters, on family vacations and camping adventures, and to Sunday Mass each Sunday, and to the adoration chapel where she prays on her knees for her children. It takes her to the grocery store, to football games, tennis matches, choir rehearsals and productions. It brings her to and from the Catholic school each day, to and from college visits, to and from play practices and basketball practices and hockey practices. A mom’s pilgrimage of love takes her to her daughter’s first middle school dance, and it takes her onto the dance floor on her son’s wedding day. And it takes her across state lines time and again for visits to her adult children’s homes.  There are no limits to where a mom’s pilgrimage of love might take her. She’ll go anywhere, so strong is her love.  And it’s a pilgrimage as sacred as the Camino de Santiago or any holy land trip.  Each step is a step of love, and a good many of them are taken quietly and without fanfare or so much as a thank you. But each of them is important because each is made with love.

Today I’m supposed to talk about the fifth spiritual work of mercy, bearing wrongs patiently. No one knows how to do this as well as a mother on her pilgrimage of love. Sometimes, along life’s journey, bad and wrong stuff happens. Sometimes it is nobody’s fault. Sometimes, it is. But a Christian mother knows how to bear it all patiently. She knows how to respond to a son’s broken bone or broken heart.  She knows how to deal patiently with her kids when they have problems at school, or when sickness comes their way. They know what to do when the rain comes. They patiently bear their children’s shenanigans and even love them all the more for their craziness and escapades. A good Christian mother bears patiently with the disappointments and difficulties of life.  All of this is a way of saying,  no one knows how to bear and embrace the cross as well as a Christian mother as she walks her pilgrimage of love.

My job today is to go home and give my mom a happy mother’s day hug. That’s your job, too.  And it’s my job as your priest to remind you mothers how highly the Church esteems your vocation and depends upon it. God so loves mothers that, when he came on his pilgrimage of love to planet earth, he did it through a mother, the mother we venerate during this month of May. If ever you mothers need a little help, you need only look to the Blessed Virgin Mary to find your way. And, as you find your way, the rest of us–your sons and daughters–will find our way, too. Because we look to you. And we love you.