Greetings, SBT Readers!
On this Mother's Day weekend, I am drawn to a photo of my parents that neither of them would have wanted to be on public display. It's a photo I captured a few years before their rapid decline. My dad, about 93 at the time, is grasping a cane in one hand and my mother's hand in the other. They are heading into their favorite restaurant and I am right behind them, struck by the power of my dad's protective love. Barely able to walk himself, he was determined to keep my mother from slipping -- or from wandering away. Sheer willpower gave him the strength to march forward into the safety of Gillieru's, with my mother in tow. The photo is not a staged snapshot but a raw image of human inner strength defying physical frailty-- of Love in action, of Love as a verb, of Love that is of God...
To all mothers and those who are motherly,
Happy Mother's Day!
PS Please note my new address at the bottom of this e-letter!
Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only Son into the world
so that we might have life through him.
In this is love:
not that we have loved God, but that God loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.
1 Jn 4:7-10
Love is not a feeling but a verb. Unfortunately, we humans tend to be swayed by feelings, but feelings can be deceptive. Take, romance, for example. How many countless couples have tumbled into marriage and parenthood because of feelings? Such feelings, of course, ensure the survival of the human race, but they are no guarantee of lasting happiness. For a brief moment, couples enjoy honeymoon bliss, and then reality sets in, often in terms of work, finances, in-laws, child-raising, and daily chores. The more each partner tries to protect his/her interests, the fewer "feel-good feelings" remain. Instead, resentment, anger, and disappointment begin to fill the void. The engagement ring may still glitter and there may be stunning wedding photos to bring back happy memories, but Love itself seems elusive.
Love is not a feeling but a verb. The glow of first parenthood is beautiful to behold --a mother's radiance and a father's joy light up the world as they welcome their little one. But while a helpless infant evokes feelings of tenderness, a raging toddler is less easy to deal with. As the growing child becomes more curious, more self-assertive, and less willing to please, unskilled parents can become reactive, even punitive. The child is now more of a problem than a gift, with Love becoming conditional upon good behavior. Of course, there are exceptions to this scenario, but all too often, parental love has its limits, especially when the child enters the teen years and does what all teenagers tend to do --rebel!
Love is not a feeling but a verb. Honoring mothers is traditional on Mother's Day but while "saying it with flowers" (or perfume, or chocolate, or jewelry) may be a lovely gesture,
it doesn't amount to much if there is no other support during the rest of the year, especially for women facing social isolation, deteriorating health or financial hardship. Simply saying, "I love you, Mom," does not address core needs but merely helps the adult child feel good.
Love is not a feeling but a verb. When it comes to relationship with God, there are many Christians who "feel good" after attending church, serving in a ministerial role, or volunteering in some way. But while experiencing a "religious high" has its rewards, our relationship with God involves more than warm, fuzzy feelings. In the spiritual life, there are those desert times commonly known as the Dark Night" in which God may seem absent, not just for a few days, but even for months or years. Instead of feeling close to God, we may feel bereaved, abandoned, lost, depressed, directionless. The challenge during the Dark Night is to continue to be faithful even though we may "feel" nothing. Our task is to pray, to search, to question, and to serve. When Darkness eventually gives way to Light, however, then we need to be available to God, not simply "saying prayers" but living prayer -- "becoming" prayer, if you will. Again, this takes us beyond mere feelings into action, with the operative verb being amare, "to Love."