March the 18th this year provides an opportunity for celebration. And I don’t just mean for hard-pressed florists and chocolatiers hoping for a boost in their cash-flow. Mother’s Day has become an international phenomenon, in part because of commercial interests, but also, I believe, because we recognise that it is a good thing to appreciate and celebrate those who gave us life.
In Britain, mothers are traditionally celebrated on Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, a welcome half-way break in a season of austerity. But what of the fathers? Hard as the men might try to be supportive and ‘hands-on’ with their families, much of the burden, especially in those exhausting early years, falls on the mother. Much of mothering is hard grind, a 24-7 commitment to putting the needs of a small, dependent human being before your own, and bearing the toll, physically and emotionally.
Of course, there are rewards to be had along the way, and the joy of witnessing landmark achievements such as baby's first words. It was not very diplomatic of my children that the first word each of them uttered was not the deserved and deeply rewarding ‘ma-ma’ but the rather galling ‘da-da’! Of course, it was probably nothing to do with expressing a preference for one parent, but simply making an easier sound.
Whatever the significance of our first words, it is universally true that we are not very good at appreciating those who have given so much to us, in particular our parents. Mothering Sunday and the fathers’ counterpart in June are an opportunity, in a small way, to address this oversight.
But there is a greater oversight that needs to be addressed. The love and sacrifice of our human parents directs us to an even greater, even more loving Parent, the one ‘from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named’ (according to Ephesians 3:15). And like our earthly parents, we often take the heavenly Father for granted and neglect to express our gratitude to Him for His goodness to us.
Whilst our mothers give birth to us, feed, clothe, educate, and comfort us, God is the ultimate source of all those things. Whilst our mothers have made and make great sacrifices out of their love for us, all that is a pointer towards the much greater love of the God who became one of us in his Son, and the unimaginable sacrifice made so that the beloved children of the heavenly Father might have life.
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton