To anyone who is a mother by having given birth, by having adopted someone or by being motherly in any way: “Happy Mother’s Day.” By happy coincidence, this year Mother’s Day is also the Third Sunday of Easter when the Gospel reading recounts the beautiful story of the encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. In the dialogue with Jesus, his disciples learned many things about the Scriptures. But it wasn’t until Jesus broke the bread that they recognized who he really was. Only later, after Jesus’ ascension to heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, did the apostles and disciples have the courage to proclaim the Good News and travel to distant lands spreading the Gospel message.
There is an intimate connection between our liturgical celebration and our secular celebration: in both cases, the theme is one of education and nourishment. Our mothers (and fathers) educate and feed us. They teach us how to get along in the world. They offer advice and support. They occasionally correct and challenge us. But ultimately, they love us. For those who are lucky, they have their mothers with them for a long time. So too in the Eucharistic feast: Jesus through our Eucharistic celebration educates and nourishes us. The Eucharist provides wisdom and grace for living in the world. The Eucharist becomes our support. Occasionally, the Eucharistic celebration challenges us to become better. But the Eucharist always is a sign of God’s love for the world.
Like our mothers, the Eucharist calls us to responsibility and maturity. We can’t simply sit at home playing computer games. My mother was constantly telling me to get out and do something. She reminded me that God gave me gifts and talents that are meant to be shared. The Eucharist does the same thing. Our celebration of the breaking of the bread calls us to mission: We cannot merely sit around; we need to live our faith with responsible maturity. Just as our mothers called us to “grow up,” so too, the Eucharist challenges us to live our lives as adult sons and daughters of a loving God.
In a very real sense, there is a strong connection between the Blessed Mother and the Eucharist. She who carried Jesus in her womb, raised him to be a faithful Jew, and cradled him in her arms as the pieta following the crucifixion, is with us leading us more closely to her Son. Mary challenges us to live the Eucharist each and every day. She invites us to have a spiritual intimacy with her Son so that we will experience the presence of God more deeply in our own lives.
As we continue our Easter celebration may each of us come to more deeply appreciate those who have been mothers to us. But more importantly, may we learn to more deeply love the Eucharist which challenges and nourishes us to be faithful followers of Christ.