Mothers: See Yourself as Jesus Sees You

Moms, when you’re discouraged and feeling unworthy, remember that the God of all grace will himself restore and strengthen you.

Antoni Piotrowski, “Intention,” 1912
Antoni Piotrowski, “Intention,” 1912 (photo: Public Domain)

A friend’s mom recently told him she struggles to relate to Mary. She doesn’t even really feel compelled to try. Mary, as a model of motherhood, for her, just seems so unreal. And here we are in the church on Mother’s Day very frequently telling people to look to Mary, not only as the model for motherhood, but to look to her for how we should honor our own moms. Let’s talk about that.

Mother’s Day began as a way to honor the sacrifices our mothers make for us. You know the ideal. This woman who puts her life on hold for her children, whose seemingly boundless patience is always there with tender and comforting love, but balances it with just the right amount of courage to set you straight, whose support never wavers and whose kindness makes everyone feel at home. She’s a listener, an encourager, a self-esteem builder, an example setter, that woman, the one who answers to mom.

Take a look at Proverbs 31:10-31. That section is a luminous little poem about the qualities of an amazing wife and mother. It’s said that nothing in ancient literature equals this poem’s testament to the dignity and individuality of woman. Pope St. John Paul II called out something really important from the poem: the unique dignity a woman receives from God himself is an irreplaceable support and source of spiritual strength for other people. Strength for other people. Wow.

Now, let me ask you moms something. Does this sound like you? Do you see yourself in Mary or in the woman of Proverbs? Or does this sound a bit more like who you aspire to be? Or does it just sound intimidating, impossible, remote, unobtainable?

I’ve got to tell you, it’s been my experience that for many of you moms, there’s an anxiety that’s always close to the surface, a haunting fear that things are just about go wrong and that somehow it just may be your fault or at least your responsibility.

In short, many of you moms feel like you’re just not enough. I know my mom sometimes did. She struggled with feeling unworthy, undeserving, that she never really did enough, especially in her prayer life, her interior life, that she was somehow in some important way inadequate. She modeled God’s love to me every day, day in, day out, year in, year out by taking very seriously the small and very human needs of a son, just as Jesus does for all of us in a very real way.

I’m an archbishop because my mom was my mom, because she was the strength for me that I needed.

Many of you moms feel like you’re just not enough. Guess what? You’re right. You’re not enough. And, honestly, that’s good news. You don’t have to be enough. You get to let go of that notion, that accusation, that lie. You get to let God be enough, to let Jesus carry you through.

This is an important lesson. When you feel the temptation or pressure to disengage from God, the right response is just the opposite. Not because you’ve got the strength, but because he does. The question is not how strong you are, but how strong God is.

I want you to remember what God did in response to Moses’s arguing with him in the book of Exodus. Remember that? Take a look in Chapter 3. Look how God deals with Moses, a man who keeps proclaiming his unworthiness. God answers his ongoing protests with a divine equivalent of a yawn.

And, actually, it’s much more profound than that. Moses kept protesting that he lacked too much, that he was too limited, that he was too incapable, too weak. So, God told Moses the truth. God revealed to Moses the truth. God reveals to us the truth. In replying to Moses, God simply declared that he’s limited by no one, that he can do whatever he wills. However hopeless it may seem, God’s got this. He’s got you. He promises you because he loves you. So take a load off. Rest a while in him, listen attentively to Jesus when he says — he’s speaking to you — “Come away by yourselves and rest a while.”

Moms, when you’re feeling unworthy, when you struggle to relate to “better moms,” when you’re convinced you’re not enough, remember that he is. He is enough. So offer any of your negative self-talk to him and let him redeem that. In the words of St. Peter, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, establish and strengthen you.

And take the time because you deserve it to remind yourself of the concrete ways you make an impact on others. Because you do.

Now, I have one more thing I’d like to say, moms. There’s a war going on out there and it’s all about attacking you as mothers. So, I want to take this moment to honor you for your care for others, you who give your lives in what is truly a white martyrdom, a total sacrifice of love. That’s an immense and irreplaceable witness of the love of God.

Happy Mother’s, Mom. I love you. You were enough. You are.

See yourself as Jesus sees you, because Jesus changes everything.