Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mother's Day and Mary's month

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

I always love this time of year, these days and weeks that follow Easter.

In the church's calendar, Lent is the season for Christian conversion. It leads to the new baptisms we celebrate at the Easter Vigil, and the renewal of our baptismal promises. We associate these weeks after Easter with confirmation — the sacrament of our Christian discipleship and our sharing in the church's apostolic mission.

So now that I’m back from Rome, that’s what I’ve been doing. Our auxiliary bishops and I are traveling to parishes across our archdiocese to confer this powerful sacrament of grace on our young people. And what a joy this is for me!

Everywhere I go, I’m meeting such strong and faithful young men and women.

They are growing up in good Catholic homes. Their parents brought them to the life of grace in baptism when they were newborns. They helped prepare them for their first confessions and holy communion. Now that their children are young adults, these parents are making sure they’re ready for this next step in their Christian maturity.

For me, these encounters have been a beautiful reminder of how our Catholic faith is born and nurtured in the heart of the family. And at the heart of every family is the loving heart of the mother.

We should give thanks to God for our mothers every day! For all their sacrifices and love. We should give thanks especially this Sunday — as we join our brothers and sisters of all faiths in celebrating national Mother’s Day.

For Catholics, motherhood is a vocation, a special calling from Jesus Christ.

God entrusts to every mother the duty of sharing in the mystery of his creation. In our Father’s design, every new life is conceived and grows under a mother’s loving heart.

Every mother is a guardian appointed by our Father to look out for his precious gift of life. Her smile is the first thing the child sees upon entering the world. And her smile is the child’s first sign of God’s love.

Along with fathers, mothers are entrusted with nurturing their children’s physical lives and helping them grow in the life of grace and the Spirit.

Mothers especially, are our first teachers about prayer, charity and the practices of our Christian faith. By their example, our mothers teach us the truth of Christian love — to love expecting nothing in return.

As Christians, we are blessed to have two mothers. We have our natural mothers who brought us into this world. And we have our spiritual mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It’s appropriate that May, when we celebrate Mother's Day, is traditionally the "Month of Mary" in our church.

At the start of the Acts of the Apostles, we see the beautiful image of the early church united in prayer around "Mary, the mother of Jesus."

This is what Jesus intended for his church. His last act before dying on the cross was to entrust his mother to his church and to every believer: "Behold, your mother!"

So we need to make sure that Mary always has an important place in our Christian lives — and in the life and mission of our archdiocese.

I was overjoyed recently to dedicate our newest church — Our Lady of Guadalupe in Oxnard. This was a beautiful moment of grace for me. As you know, I’ve always had a devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe. So this had special meaning for me — that the first church built during my time as Archbishop is dedicated to her.

I hope this new church can be an inspiration for all of us — to renew our devotion to our Blessed Mother.

Let’s make that our prayer for one another this week. That we grow in our love for our mothers — our natural mothers on earth, and our Blessed Mother in heaven.

As our mothers taught us how to walk, Mary teaches us how to follow Jesus. She shows us how to listen for the voice of God and to trust in his plan for our lives.

Mary teaches us to always look to Jesus, and to conform our lives to his Word and his example. Her last words in the Gospels, at the wedding at Cana, should be the first words that define how we live: "Do whatever he tells you."

In Mary’s eyes, as in the eyes of our natural mothers, we will always be her children. As a good mother, she is always close to us, ready to catch us if we fall. We can call to her when we’re in trouble. We can turn to her for help in our struggles.

So let’s honor all our mothers this weekend. And let’s ask our Blessed Mother to help us to become more worthy, more holy and loving children of God.

Archbishop José H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez

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