Weekend Ponderings: A Mother’s Ambition

motherofzebedeesIn the Gospel reading this weekend, the Lord chooses the first four Apostles: two sets of brothers. We don’t hear much about the parents of the first pair — Andrew and Simon (later Peter, the first pope). The second set, James and John, were the “sons of Zebedee.” In the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we read:

He [Jesus] walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him.

The passage doesn’t say what old Mr. Zebedee thought of this development. Very likely, not much … What father doesn’t dream of his sons working alongside him, continuing the family business? As he watched his sons walk away, following the itinerant Nazarene preacher — did he shout for them to honor their father, and return? Or was he a man of faith, who understood that they had responded to a higher call?

And what of their mother? In Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 20), we find a hint:

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?”

She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”

Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”

They said to him, “We can.”

He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left,
this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 

If her sons were going to foll ow this Jesus, she would do her best to make sure they would distinguish themselves! And so they did … James was killed by the sword at Herod’s command (Acts 12:1).  And John (thought by many Scripture scholars to be the one who is identified in the Gospels as “the one whom Jesus loved”) remained close to the Lord throughout his life, writing his Gospel account and other important works while exiled on the Island of Patmos, having first been boiled alive in oil.

And what of the mother?  In Mark 16:1,  Mary “the mother of James” is among those who prepares the body of the Lord for burial. As she washed and anointed those still, cold limbs… Did she think again of the request she made of Jesus, and wish she hadn’t spoken so hastily?

No matter how our children come to us, or what challenges and gifts they possess, we have dreams for them. It can be difficult to let those go, especially as time goes on and we discover that they are responding to a different call. We can encourage them, and offer them advice … and yet, parenting is about working ourselves out of a job. The best we can hope for is to give our children the skills they need to make good choices, and trust God for the rest.

After all, our children are entrusted to us for a time … but they belong to Him!

Photo credit: Cargage.org


Weekend Ponderings: Sleep Deprivation

samueleli1To be honest, I stumbled through the first weeks of parenthood. The three kids never slept more than four hours at a time — and never the same four hours between them. Getting two consecutive hours of sleep was nothing short of a miracle. Getting more than three meant resorting to childcare.

And yet, in the middle of the night I experienced some of the unexpected perks of motherhood as well. Alone in their rooms, the children called for me and let me take care of them. I could rock them. Hold them. Sing to them. Love them. During the day, they huddled together and endured my efforts to tend to their needs. At night, I was truly “the mommy.”

This weekend’s reading from the book of First Samuel (3:3-10) reminded me of those early morning/late night encounters. Three times, young Samuel heard a voice, and ran to the side of his spiritual father, Eli. “Here I am! …” and then, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

Eli’s sons were unjust men, who brought great grief to their father and their God. It was Samuel, whose parents lovingly dropped him off at the Temple when he was still a small boy, who received the spiritual heritage of that great high priest. The old man must have felt like a failure on many levels — how could he explain the moral depravity of his own children? Yet, when God gave him a second chance in the person of young Samuel, Eli took it.

“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” How often does God give us a second, unexpected chance? How many times have we gotten bogged down in our own sense of failure … and then catch a whiff of grace? In the still of the night, as we soothe our children and doze on the edge of dreamland, will we catch that divine whisper as well?


Weekend Ponderings…

simeon-and-annaIn the coming year, I’d like to spend more time reflecting on the Scriptures through the lens of extraordinary motherhood.

Throughout the Gospels, we encounter figures who are largely hidden, taking center stage for the briefest moments before returning to the shadows. Their reward, you see, was not an earthly one … any more than ours is. And yet, there is much we can learn from them if we only have “ears to hear.”

And so, on this the last weekend of the year, I introduce you to one of the EMs of the Gospel: Anna the Prophetess. From this weekend’s readings, taken from the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke:

There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

According to tradition (as recorded in the “Protoevangelium of James” par 7), Joachim and Anne (called “Anna” in this account) took their precious daughter Mary to the Temple at the tender age of three. There she remained, learning to serve God with purity of heart until she was twelve, when her protector Joseph was selected.

In today’s Gospel, we read of Anna — a widow who remained in the Temple after being widowed as a young bride.  When she saw Mary enter with her Son and husband, Anna was irresistibly drawn to the Holy Family. Was it simply the guidance of the Holy Spirit … Or was it something else?

Could it be that, as a young widow, Anna had tended to young Mary in the Temple, as her own spiritual daughter? Did she teach her to pray, and guide the delicate Rose of Sharon to attain full bloom? Was she for Mary … an extraordinary mother? And was it this attachment … that caused Anna to see with the eyes of faith the special calling God had given not only this beautiful young woman, but her Son as well?