Readings, prayers and reflections are available below.
LENT IV MOTHERING SUNDAY 14 MARCH 2021
Today's sermon is available as an audio recording here. Press play to start.
God of compassion, whose Son, Jesus Christ, the child of Mary, shared the life of a home in Nazareth, and on the cross drew the whole human race to himself: strengthen us in our daily living that in joy and in sorrow we may know the power of your presence to bind together and to heal; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
II Corinthians 1:3-7, John 19:22b-27.
As our Lord grew to manhood under a mother's care, may his Church be as a mother to her children.
We pray for mothers who are forced to watch their children go hungry, or suffer or grow sick.
We pray for those grieving the death of their mother or the loss of children. May God's love surround them, bringing comfort and strength.
We pray for the sick and especially Mary Maxwell and Paul Evans.
We pray for those who have died. For those recently dead: Andrew Rolle and David Card-Reynolds. May we come to share with them the perfect vision of God.
Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death.
Love, cosmic and domestic
An unusually short Gospel for such an important day. The 4th Sunday of Lent, commonly called Mothering Sunday, signals the love we have for our own mothers, for Christ’s Mother, and for the Church as mother, not just the building but for the Church as community and communion; feeding, loving and sustaining. Even from the few words of the Gospel we can say something about Christ’s Mother, our own mother’s and the Church as Mother.
On Calvary, Mary stood at the foot of the Cross. Mary’s maternal love and protection is never more vividly expressed than when she holds the Christ child in her arms at his Nativity and again when she cradles his deposed body, bleeding and bruised, at his crucifixion. That maternal love is available to us through her nearness to her Son and her continued intercession.
On the Cross we see love in action and love redeemed: a love wrought out of suffering. At the foot of the Cross in Mary we see maternal love, a suffering Mother. A sword pierces her own soul. She does not participate in Christ’s sacrifice but in seeing her Son’s Passion and Death she undergoes a sacrifice of her own and exemplifies, as the highest of the redeemed, our own redemption and our relationship to Christ’s sacrifice within the context of the Eucharist.
The communion in which we participate is also an expression of commonality, of the familial relationship that defines the Church. Today we recognise the maternal aspect of the Church, not as an institution but as a gathering of people, of the inter-connectedness that enables us to speak of the Church as “her” and as “Mother Church”. The Church is no less a family than our own families and we know well enough that not all families work well, or do not work well all the time. But when they do work well, in imitation of the relationship of love which exists in the Holy Trinity, then there is nothing to match them. And the ideal remains something to strive for, something to hang on to as a point of reference. But love is never easy.
When Jesus asked his disciples to follow him, he did not say that it was going to be easy. We should be under no illusions about that. “Blessed are you when men persecute you and speak all manner of evil against you.”¹ That could not be more explicit to let us know what we might expect. He told his disciples, and it is no less for us, that they would have to drink his cup, and that means nothing less than sharing in his suffering.
But it is an open invitation. None of us is compelled to be a follower of Christ. It is something we have chosen to do, something we have embraced. The message is clear enough for us to weigh up our response but once our response is made Jesus takes us at our word.
On Calvary we see the Redeemer and the highest of the redeemed but we also see a Mother and her Son. A Mother who loved her Son and a Son who loved his Mother and whom he entrusted to his friend, John, the Beloved Disciple. The third element of today is the love we have for our own mothers. The Crucifixion may be love at a cosmic level, but we also see here love at a domestic level. The level where we operate day by day. The way we live our lives and the context of our relationships. At a time when changes in relationships, radical, moral, familial values, result in a more diverse and variegated society and social structures than was once the case, it may be that we should be celebrating parental love rather than motherly love. But there is still a resonance in the injunction to honour our fathers and our mothers, to acknowledge the importance of the loving nurturing of children, to value the divine example and seek to emulate it in our relationships.
Christ Church, Hampstead 2021
¹ S. Matthew 10: 25