The Standard March 11, 2023
For as long as I can remember, I have dreaded this. As a young child I couldn’t bear the thought of my mother dying. Back then, it perplexed me to think how I possibly could be expected to love God more than I loved her. My number one fan. My biggest cheerleader. The person who, from day one, imbued in me a confidence that I could accomplish anything. It seemed like the most normal and natural thing in the world. Unfailing positivity and affection.
Like every family, we certainly had our share of quirks and faults. The thing we three kids never lacked was love and support from our parents. Early on, I had no idea what a rare quality it was to have a mom who remembered almost every person’s name, spoke to them cheerfully and was genuinely interested in their lives. When she and a friend wrote a social column for the Annapolis newspaper, they were sure to include snippets that would appeal to all kinds of readers. Mom wanted to publish many more names than just those of the socialites. If I had known more at the time, I would have realized that was exactly what Jesus would have wanted.
I remember at Mass on several occasions, hearing the parable of the workers in the vineyard and being incredibly bothered. How unfair it seemed for the landowner to pay all the workers the same amount, even those who worked so little. More than once I had my mom explain it to me. “But he [the landowner] answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’” (Matthew 20:13-16)
In my sophomore year of high school God began to bring the pieces together for me to grasp this central theme in Jesus’ message. Not one of us deserves the gracious gifts of forgiveness and redemption. It is free because we never could pay the price ourselves. We could not earn it. God is ultimately generous. It is the sick who need a doctor, not the healthy, and without God we all are spiritually sick. It is the last who will be first. The way my mom treated the poorest kid and the richest kid in our diverse neighborhood was a small reflection of the way God welcomes us.
So somehow, in this time with Mom at our house under the care of hospice, God will sustain me. The fleeting nature of life will be driven home in one of the most difficult ways. The memories of the quick-witted 90-year-old woman who remembered more facts and people than I ever will know and who made everyone chuckle will be my treasures. I will be forever grateful for the one who showed me how to be a mother- just a normal, down-to-earth, devoted mom. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4) “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8:22-24a) “’Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57)