The sacrificial love of women has perhaps the chief civilization influence of society through the ages. When most of us think of sacrificial love, the kind Jesus called His disciples to embody, most of us call to mind our mothers.
I have chosen to focus on the idea of a mother’s sacrificial love on this Mother’s Day. I have chosen the passage that is read at the reading of the Twelve Gospels on Holy Thursday, where Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)
This is a very radical doctrine. A shepherd who cares so much for his sheep that he dies for them. We can understand the shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep because his family and his livelihood depend on those sheep. If wolves attack those sheep, he would combat those wolves because that is his job. The wolves might be dangerous, but this is his job. He knew the risks when he signed on. It goes with the territory.
But that is not what Jesus is saying. Jesus says he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, not because that is his job, but because he cares that much for his sheep. He values the lives of the sheep more than he values life itself. Jesus then contrasts himself with a hired hand, when He says, “the hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away – and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.” Then he adds, “The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.” You see only Jesus cares!
You and I can understand dying to protect our family. Most of us would do that in a heartbeat. But a sheep, that is not necessary. But you see, Jesus is not talking about sheep; rather, he is talking about you and me. Christ was willing to give up his life in our behalf. Christ is no stranger to us, he knows us by name and cares for us individually, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep”. This is sacrificial love, like a mother’s love. Sacrificial love is sometimes tough love, it is affirming love and it is forgiving love.
We have just come through Holy Week and Pascha. Have you ever thought of the Cross as being the ultimate act of affirmation? The Cross tells us how much we matter to God. So today, we honor women, who give sacrificial love to those within their responsibility. We honor you but most of all give thanks on this Sunday of Ante-Pascha because your love reflects the very love of God.
Our children need to know from us that even though our love must sometimes be tough, they will always be our children. The door is never closed – just as God’s door is ever open for us!
Christ is Risen!
Happy Mother’s Day!