It is far too easy to see the church in a negative way. We can be characterised as strange, quaint, and out of touch. It suits people to see us as opposed to certain things. We are prescriptive, we limit people’s freedom, and failing to practice what we preach, we can be written off as hypocrites, with no right to proclaim objective truth, to offer the world a moral framework, within which to live its life; to offer the world an alternative paradigm, a new way of living and of being through which to have life, and have life in all its fullness.
This morning’s gospel reminds us of the fundamental truth that God loves us. In the incarnation Jesus comes among us as a poor helpless baby, laid to rest in the rough wood of an animals’ feeding trough. He is cared for through the love of his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who in her love, service, and obedience, stands as the model for all Christians. She is the first Christian, the greatest, a pattern for us to imitate, and a foreshadowing of our great mother the church.
Upon the rough wood of the cross, Jesus will suffer and die for us. His mother, Mary, stands by and watches and weeps. As the church we too should watch and weep for the wounds of sin and division which still scar Christ’s body. We should do all that we can to live God’s life of sacrificial self giving love: living lives of light, which shine in the darkness. The salvation and eternal life which Christ offers freely to all, comes through the church, which we enter in baptism, where we are nourished in word and are sacrament, given food for the journey, strengthened and taught, to live his risen life, to share in the joys of Easter.
God cares so much about the world and its people that he takes flesh, and lives a life of love, amidst the messiness of humanity, to show us how to live lives filled with love, life in all its fullness. Not to condemn the world but to offer it a way of being. God has made us for himself , and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in him. The spiritual needs and searching which characterise people in the world around us, can be satisfied in God and in God alone, through the church.
We can rejoice, and relax our Lenten discipline for a little while to give thanks for the wonderful gift of God’s love in our lives, in the church, and for the world. But we also need to trust God, to listen to what he says through Scripture, to be fed by him, and to live lives in accordance with his will and purpose, together, as a family, as a community of love, cared for and supported by our mother, the church. And in so doing we look to our Lady as mother of our Lord and mother of the church, as a pattern for love and obedience, as a model for all mothers: loving and tender, putting the needs of others before self, self-giving, sacrificial, and open to both joy and pain.
This, as any mother can tell you, is not easy, it’s difficult, really hard, but its rewards are likewise great. So let us, as we continue our Lenten journey towards the cross, where God shows his love for us most fully and completely, giving his body to be broken and his blood be shed for us, a sacrifice which will be made present here today under the outward forms of bread and wine, to strengthen us to live the risen life of Easter, to offer the world and alternative to selfishness, to self-centredness, to the sin which continues to separate us from God, in a self-giving love of mothers, and of our mother the church. That we may join the Angels in our song of love and praise to the Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit, to whom bw ascribed as is right and just all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever