Sure I love the dear silver that shines in your hair. Does anyone recognise that song? An old, old Irish favourite, Mother Machree. I remember my father singing it to us and the words have been flowing through my head this week as I wondered how to prepare a homily for Mothers’ Day. Of course, this is the ideal song for mothers – even if it was written with an older woman in mind. Age is irrelevant when it comes to love and care and being there for another.
Hear the words:
Sure, I love the dear silver that shines in your hair
And the brow that’s all furrowed and wrinkled with care
I kiss the dear fingers so toil worn for me
O God bless you and keep you, Mother Machree.
Something that makes the song especially relevant for us today is the name Machree. It’s made up of two Gaelic words, ma/chroí which carry the meaning from the heart. Isn’t that precisely why we honour mothers?
They serve from the heart. And when we honour someone, that honour comes from our hearts, from our memories of love given and shared. It’s from the heart that truth and goodness shine; from the heart mistakes are forgiven and forgotten. Regrettably, it’s also from the heart that other memories come: memories of going without, memories of absence, pain, neglect. But that’s when Mothers’ Day can become a time of healing, a time of letting go the hurt which a struggling, anxious, or abandoned mother may have inflicted on those in her care. To be generous in forgiveness is possibly the best kind of honouring.
Jesus honours his disciples in this way when he greets them with Peace be with you, following their betrayal and cowardice. His forgiveness overflowed and swamped their sense of unworthiness and in today’s gospel they are offered the consequences of Jesus’ generosity. This is what you must do, he tells them, Love one another as I have loved you. Peter shows he’s learned what this means when he tells us in the first reading that God has no favourites – God’s love is universal and everlasting. Jesus’ love is a forgiving love. He understands our weaknesses; he knows the efforts we make and the pressures we can find ourselves under.
He knew Peter would not be able to hold his nerve and would deny his friend; he knew the others would panic and run. He saw them as little children, not yet able to take responsibility for themselves or their actions.
We are children of God – privileged way beyond our understanding, but destined for greatness if we can just learn to think more of others than ourselves. Love one another as I have loved you – could also be the legacy of a mother to her children. A mother’s love models the most unselfish love and it is richly laced with forgiveness. A two year old is into all the low-lying cupboards and before long there’s a breaking sound as a dish shatters. At that moment, the real mother’s concern is for the child, not the loss of property. Her love pours out, overwhelming any feeling of annoyance or disappointment. She reacts from the heart: the good of the child is primary. In their way of loving, mothers can show their children what God’s love is like, and with Jesus they can say to them, Love one another as I have loved you.
A contemporary song thanks a mother in these words: In my heart you bring the sunshine on my stormy days. To my soul you bring the fire that brighten up my way. The greatest gift that love can bring is your presence in my life. But I still cherish the song my Dad used to sing – and I sing it for every mother among us, and for those who have died; Sure I love the dear silver that shines…
A Prayer in Gratitude for Our Mothers
Good and Gentle God, we pray in gratitude for our mothers and for all the women of history who have joined with you in the wonder of bringing forth new life. You who became human through a woman, grant to all mothers the courage they need to face the uncertain future that life with children always brings. Give them the strength to live and to be loved in return, not perfectly, but humanly. Give them the faithful support of a loving partner, family and friends as they care for the physical and spiritual growth of their children. Give them joy and delight in their children to sustain them through the trials of motherhood. Most of all, give them the wisdom to turn to you for help when they need it most.