What strange times we live in, and what a strange day to be celebrating Mothering Sunday. As I look outside and see the daffodils gently swaying in the wind on this beautiful day, with blue sky and sunshine overhead, it is difficult to imagine just how disrupted this Mother’s Day is going to be for so many people. The things that usually mark this day – the visiting, the hugging, the sharing of gifts and flowers – all these things have been put on hold. Like the parent separated from the child who is infectious, or the child separated from the parent who is in critical care, today will be one of being separated in love and care instead of being close.
Those who have been through the experience of being separated from a loved one in a time of crisis will know that love and care for our loved ones can flourish and grow even in separation as well as proximity. If you are a mother who is self-isolating today, or a child who is unable to visit your mum, you can be certain that the love and care you feel for one another will be even more marked and precious this year because you cannot be in close proximity. Sometimes, love and care mean keeping our distance, and I remember my dad telling me of the six months he had to spend in an isolation ward when he had Scarlett Fever. For my grandma that must have been a very painful time, but I think it probably taught them both not to take each other for granted. Being apart can be a time for strengthening the bonds of love and care.
In the Christian story, Mary had to accept long periods of separation from her son. He went off on his travels, with nowhere to lay his head, and he eventually ended up being put to death on the cross for being too challenging. His mother stood by as they put him to death and, during this season of Lent, we remember her agony as well as the agony of Jesus himself. In the Stabat Mater we hear of Mary’s pain and suffering as she watched her son suffer and die, and I think that will resonate today for many as they stand by those who are dying of the viral epidemic. Suffering and death can also bring us closer together in love and care, and it is often only when someone dies that you realise just how much you have loved them and they you.
These thoughts today prompt me to urge us all to express and show our love and care for one another in separation as well as in proximity. It is vital, as we remember our mums today – and as they remember their children – that we extend that circle of love and care to all around us. Mother’s Day should be a day to return what is amiss – the love and care which comes from God and which surrounds us every day of our lives.
God of compassion, whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary, shared the life of a home in Nazareth, and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself; strengthen us in our daily living that in joy and sorrow we may know the power of your presence to bind together and to heal; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.