From what we know, Jesus of Nazareth was about 30 when he was crucified. That would make his mother Mary somewhere around 44 or 45. Still young, but having given birth to several children and having accompanied Jesus on his campaign walking under the hot middle eastern sun, her face would have shown the lines of age, like many of our mothers here today.
There were the lines carved by tears and worry, the lines left from moments of joy and the lines left from eyes turned towards heaven in prayer.
Jesus had looked often into this mother’s face, as a child and as a man. Even before his birth she was given knowledge by the angels of his destiny, of what he would be. So when Jesus looked into the face of Mary, there was imprinted in the lines on her face and the sad wisdom in her eyes, in the touch of her hand along his cheek, the knowledge of who he was and “whose” he was.
In her face was the assurance that, no matter the terrible things life would hold for him, his was a destiny that would light up hope and renewal for a people for centuries to come. He could look at the lines in her face and CLAIM THE VICTORY that was his by virtue of a God who never abandoned the people he chose to be a light to the nations, to be the messenger of the triumph of His Kingdom on earth.
In her face was the assurance that allowed Jesus, even tortured and shamed on the cross,to claim victory!
Those same lines of tears and worry, of joys and of prayer are found in the faces of the mothers here today – and on the faces of mothers from whom we are separated by miles or by borders – but never in our hearts. We see ourselves, our best selves, our forgiven and redeemed selves, in their eyes and in their faces. We see our destiny – and we see God – and we too can claim the victory God promises. We know who we are. We know whose we are and, in this knowledge, lies our secret strength as a people.
Today we honor the mothers of, the mothers of our families, the mothers of our church. Today we also bring young people of a new generation to their first communion into the unity of the people of God for which Jesus gave his life. For mothers call us to defend, to follow and to lead – and they give us the assurance that we can. Out of the turbulence and pain of their struggle they reveal and make a place for us in the harmony and healing of God’s creation.
In honoring these mothers, we are called to overcome our shortcomings, our divisions, our jealousies, our fears – to commit ourselves anew to the purpose and unity they reveal. We honor them today. We ask forgiveness for the times we have turned our back on them or stood by while others disrespected them. We ask forgiveness for the times we saw their weakness but not their strength. We ask forgiveness for the times we did not defend them – as we remember how often they have forgiven us.
We celebrate the mothers we have defended – Francisca and Doris and many others. What a gift that they have been protected, that they have not been torn from their husbands and children, and that they are here with us. We know their struggle continues and we pledge our support to them.
We honor those who fought to keep their families together. We honor those who have been torn from us like Elvira, who have proven that no government, no borders, can separate them from their children, their families and their people. We celebrate that she has been returned to us. And we gather around those who will become mothers this year and enter that special group on which God has placed such a special blessing and such a special responsibility. We give honor to Marlenne Salmeron who challenged the border with her two U.S. citizen children, demanding emergency parole so that she could be reunited with her husband Gustavo. We celebrate the courage and faithfulness of mothers like Cecilia and Olivia who have had to be both mother and father because this nation has no respect for the unity of the family. We celebrate Esperanza whose commitment to her son, to justice for her son, is shocking the nation into recognizing the injustice he faces. And we celebrate Jacobita, in truth the mother of our church.
We honor today all the mothers who have taken their place in the struggle even as they take the responsibility for their own children – and all the ups and downs every mother goes through with them. In committing themselves as well to, they show their own children the unselfishness of the truly faithful, the greatest gift they can give them. As they connect their families they connect a people, for mothers are the great connectors.
The courage of these and other mothers across the country who stood strong in our fight over these last years have brought us many victories and helped us persevere in the face of defeats. I know it has been very hard sometimes. We have seen their tears as well as their joy. But together these mothers have inspired a unity among our people and have brought out the humanity of others and brought us to where we are today.
Every year in this struggle we have prepared to organize, to choose the path that would move us forward. This year, we are assembling again the U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents, an army of young people who refuse to be pushed back into the shadows, so that they can bring their claim to equal rights in this society straight to President Trump through a class action suit and through the force of their numbers, five million strong! Those like Saul and Britzi are a testament in their courage and commitment to the courage and commitment of their mothers.
Yesterday morning, many of our mothers joined with other mothers from the African American community at Operation PUSH. There they found a common bond with mothers who had lost their sons and daughters to the violence in the community and to the police abuse and murder that continues to go on there. Indeed we have mothers here this morning whose sons are incarcerated or who are facing deportation because of the systematic criminalization of our next generation.
We are in the time of resurrection. In the November election we faced a shock, a reversal in the progress we were achieving. While DACA remains, more and more long term residents, mothers and fathers, are being arrested and deported. The attorney General appointed by Trump declared yesterday that he is asking his prosecutors to demand the longest sentences possible – reversing the Obama Administration’s recognition that mass incarceration serves no positive purpose, recognizing that this country has more of its people behind bars than any country in the world. The policies of mass deportation and mass incarceration – aimed primarily at people of color – have been reenergized by the racist control of the Congress and the new President’s Administration.
In order to recover, we have conscientiously followed the way that the ministry of Jesus prepared us to persevere in the face of this setback. We walked with Jesus as he taught us the Way of Faith, the Way of the Kingdom of God on earth, right up to the cross. And we have been drawing on the appearances of the resurrected Jesus to confirm the way Jesus prepared us to practice baptism, reconciliation, communion and prayer to keep us strong, to renew our faith against today’s onslaught of racism and injustice. Yet in his last moments on the cross, Jesus spoke to his mother and to his beloved disciple saying:
The living history of our faith keeps the reality of mothers ever before us through the presence of Mary, the mother of Jesus, revealed in a special way to her people of the south in the ever precious and blessed Virgin of Guadalupe.
Mary proclaims through the ages that she is blessed to give birth to Jesus, and the sacrifice that fulfills. Listen to what she says. “The Lord has been mindful of his humble servant.” Mary, the mother, does not have to seek prestige or power. She knows that in just being who she is, a mother, that God blesses her and treasures her. She also knows that God blesses the humble people that have sprung from her womb. She says, “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their innermost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” She is content to be who she is and knows the value she has in the eyes of God for it is from her that God’s people come.
As the living symbol of God’s intervention in the lives of a struggling people, she reminded the people that God was not locked up in a temple or owned by powerful and corrupt men. She reminded them that Jesus taught he was with them wherever two or three were gathered together in his name. She reminded them that they are one people with a destiny even if they were separated and divided by the world.
The powerful witness of Mary in the history of our faith has also protected the space for leadership and equal participation of women in the faith. The prejudice and false pride that kept women down is most challenged by the God given authority of mothers – and grandmothers – making a way for young women to take their place in the faith and in the struggle. In fact, while we read in the account of the gospel of John about the gift of the mother to Jesus’ favorite and beloved disciple, there is much evidence that the beloved disciple of Jesus was Mary Magdalene, his wife. Perhaps his gift from the cross was the unity between his mother and her daughter in law!
Today, we give thanks that God gave this precious gift of the mother to the people of the south, that day at Tepeyac, and every day since then.
The dark virgin brought a message from the creator, from the highest authority. She explained that this people who had been conquered and enslaved and exploited were yet chosen by God to make his Kingdom known on the earth; that they would be protected and healed – but she also challenged them to demand their place – and her place – on the land.
Why have we fought so hard for this bond between mothers and their children to be respected and allowed to do its work? We have fought so hard because from this God given bond comes the leaders of families, of the church and of the people – and we need leadership now.
A special challenge, a special choice, has been put before our people and especially the next generation: resistance and loyalty – or assimilation and forgetfulness. We are in the midst of a campaign in which the children of undocumented and the dreamers are coming forward to defend their mothers. It is more than a choice to march in a demonstration or appear at a press conference. It is a life choice.
In accepting their first communion or their confirmation in to the community, these young people today are offered the choice to stand with their people, who are humble, to live in the power of their history and the destiny that God gives them – and to turn their back on the temptations of evil and corruption. The same connection they have with their mothers from the womb now extends to the connection of the people of God.
We are called to follow Jesus by mothers. We are called to lead from among the people, in humility. We are called to heal by first healing ourselves – for if we challenge the jealousy and arrogance inside ourselves we can heal the divisions that make a people weak. We are called to a life of commitment and purpose.
We all live in the continuing power of creation. While mothers are defined and the character of mothers is revealed by many things, none is more significant than in childbirth. Once labor begins, it is an irreversible process, a life force in which the will and courage of the mother is joined inextricably with the force of new life coming into being. In the midst of turbulence and pain is revealed the underlying harmony between the individual and God’s creation, the struggle of one person and the place of that struggle in the perpetuation of a people, the dreams and aspirations of one person and their place in the grand purposes of an Almighty God.
Who dares to stand in the way of this? What fool thinks they could dominate God’s revelation of himself? What evil seeks to disrupt this great harmony of creation from which all that is good and all that is love comes? Those who stand in the way of this life force will be forgotten, blown away like dry leaves, consigned to burn quickly in the fires of hell.
And these heretics and blasphemers and tyrants will face a powerful people. For the mothers are the connectors. As we grow up, they tell us who our relatives are and they walk us into the world of the people we can trust. This week, as we held membership meetings of Familia Latina Unida across the city, we witnessed the depth and breadth of those connections, a people come to life in struggle, a people planted in this country to transform it and to lead the transformation of a suffering continent. Who can deny that Familia Latina Unida has grown because of the connectors, the mothers who bring us together.
As for us – we will give all honor and glory to the mothers of God’s people – we will defend them with our lives and we will accept the challenge they give us to be their soldiers and to claim the victory!
And we will give thanks for the gift they bring through their love and tears and hard labor and suffering and through their joy – the gift of assurance that God is with us.
The Holy Scriptures for the Fifth Week in the Time of Resurrection
Luke 1:46-57 Mary’s Song
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
The Words of the Virgin of Guadalupe to Juan Diego
"Know, be sure, my dearest-and-youngest son, that I am the Prefect Ever Virgin Holy Mary, mother of the one great God of truth who gives us life, the inventor and creator of people. the owner and lord of what is around us and what is touching us or very close to us, the owner and lord of the sky, the owner of the earth. How truly I wish it, how greatly I desire it, that here they should erect Me My Temple! Here would I show forth, here would I lift up to view, here would I make a gift of all My Fondness for My Dear Ones, all My Regard for My Needy Ones, My Willingness to Aid them, My Readiness to Protect them. For truly I Myself, I am your Compassionate Mother, yours, for you yourself, for everybody here in the Land, for each and all together, for all others too, for all Folk of every kind, who do but cherish Me, who do but raise their voices to Me, who do but seek Me, who do but raise their trust to Me. For here I shall listen to their groanings, to their saddenings; here shall I make well and heal up their each and every kind of disappointment, of exhausting pangs, of bitter aching pain. But in order to realize what I have in mind in My Regard for My Needy Ones, do you, please, go to the Palace of the Bishop of Mexico; Go and tell him how it is I Myself who am commissioning you that you should present to him how strongly I desire it that here he should house Me, that here, on the level ground, he should erect My Temple. And give him a full account of all you have seen and wondered at and of whatever you have heard.
John 19:25-27 Jesus Speaks From the Cross
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.