‘Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity--greedy, dishonest, adulterous--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’ Luke 18:10-14
Today is Mother’s Day, that annual tribute to motherhood. I believe it’s a wonderful tradition—despite what my husband says about it being a ‘Hallmark Holiday’—because it honors all the sacrifices made for life, God’s greatest gift to us. In this culture of death in which we live, we need to take every opportunity offered to celebrate life and those who cherish, nurture and protect it. Let’s all give thanks today for mothers everywhere. God bless and strengthen them for their work in His Holy Service.
That said, as a mother myself, I am also painfully aware of my shortcomings: all those times I did not live up to my vocation. Yes, I know deep in my heart I've tried to do my best in raising my children, but I also remember occasions I wish I could forget when I didn’t listen or understand, when I put myself first, or when I wasn’t so loving as I could have been. And do I even need to say that when/if I could forget them, my own children would remind me of them? (sigh) Trust me, they do!
But it’s okay. My failures are there to keep me humble and remind me how much I need God’s Grace – and Mary’s intercession – while I strive to do my best for my family.
Still, on this day when everyone is telling me how “great” I am as a mother, I’m going to tell you ‘the rest of the story’. I’m going to rat or snitch on myself. This publican is going confess just one example of why she knows she always stands in need of God’s mercy.
When I was just embarking on my homeschooling career—many, many years ago—I had an extremely difficult time getting my children to sit and do their work on their own without my constant supervision. I knew that if this whole homeschooling ‘experiment’ – as I called it then – was going to work, my children were going to have to learn to be self-motivated and disciplined. What I didn’t know was how to teach that.
I preached at them a lot!
One morning I came back for the fourth or fifth time to find one of my daughters—I’ve forgotten which one—gone from her desk. Vigilante-like, Mom here, was all set to chastise the absentee scholar, the little miscreant. Without checking the circumstances and at the top of my lungs, I yelled out, “________, where are you?!”
The contrite child appeared shortly and looking down at the floor she said in a very small voice, “I was making your bed mommy.”
I dissolved. All my self-righteousness melted into tears and I went down on my knees and enfolded her in a hug of remorse. Then we went upstairs to admire her accomplishment. My eyes still tear up when I think of the lesson that God—using the love of my child—taught me that day.
This mom looks into the mirror through the eyes of her children and knows her true self.
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”