Love can break your heart
That might seem to be the message of today's gospel.
You have both options printed on your sheet – but whichever passage you choose to reflect on, there's not a whiff of hallmark sentimentality about today.
“A sword shall pierce your soul” predicted Simeon – and as Passiontide approaches we begin to remember once again how hard it was to be the Mother of God...to watch your precious son court disaster by his lifestyle, his choice of friends, his choice of words...even before you find yourself standing at the foot of the cross as he dies in agony.
That kind of desperate anxiety about another is part of the business of loving too, I think – part of investing so much of ourselves IN the other that when they hurt, we hurt too.
A situation that's so very familiar to mothers – but equally to fathers, brothers, sisters, friends...
Because, you see, mothering,and all that it entails, has never been exclusive to those women who have given birth.
At its best, motherhood can be a wonderful reflection of God's nurturing love
At its worst it can be neglectful, manipulative, possessive and a whole host of other things besides – and I know that many people struggle with today, and some regulars will stay away from church because their own experience as either parent or child has left them bruised and broken.
Then there are those who have longed to be parents – but it just hasn't happened, whose empty arms make today almost intolerable..another group who feel that this Sunday is not for them...
Having had a miscarriage on the eve of Mothering Sunday myself I can empathise with their feelings.
And of course, there are those who will spend today missing their mothers – or their children. Holding onto the love but knowing the pain of absence as well.
Love can break your heart and Mothers' day as it is celebrated by secular society can be extraordinarily hard for many many people...
So – why keep on celebrating it at all – when there is so much potential for causing distress for which not all the daffodils in the world will ever begin to compensate?
Why not just write it off as a secular celebration and focus on the readings set for Lent 4, without even thinking of Mothering Sunday.
Because, of course, Mothering Sunday – unlike the secular celebration of “Mothers' Day” has never been all about mothers...
On Mothering Sunday we celebrate all those who have mothered us, those loving souls whose care and encouragement have made all the difference to us – women and men and children too...
Yes, of course we give thanks for those who laboured that we might have life, who physically brought us into this world – whatever their impact on us afterwards.
But we remember, too, that we are called into community – the family of the church that was created as Jesus gave his mother into the care of his friend, at that moment of terrible pain which looked like the end of all hope,everywhere.
And we remember that we have inherited that calling to mother, to nurture one another, to provide loving arms to hold and to hug at the hard times...to show others the kind of care that might, at its best, be at least a partial reflection of the amazing love that God offers us all – even when we break HIS heart with our failure to love in return.
And we come to our mother church – the place that has nurtured us in our faith, that feeds us week by week with God's Word and his very life, offered to us in Bread and Wine.
And maybe we remember that though Love can break your heart- beyond the pain and heartbreak that Mary experienced at the foot of the cross, the dawn of Resurrection is already shining – and so we try to live as signs of that new hope, and the world in which God's mothering love is known and shared by all....