A son’s tribute on Mother’s Day

People of various faith traditions are tempted to celebrate their high holy days and then fail to embrace the meaning of those festivals the rest of the year. For example, we Christians typically don’t contemplate the events of Good Friday once Easter has past. When we fail to do that we often don’t see how the events of Holy Week speak to other lesser holidays.

Take Mothers’ Day, for example. While reflecting on the death of Jesus, I made the following observations not long ago.

He’d been beaten and berated and then hung out to die. For six hours he’d endured searing pain while stretched on a cross beneath the blazing Middle Eastern sky. While his mother watched traumatized, Jesus bled profusely, losing vital body fluids. His tongue was noticeably swollen. His lips were parched.

And yet Jesus found the strength to speak to his close friend John, who stood near his grieving mother. “Here is your mother,” Jesus sighed between his heaving breaths (John 19:27). His final words of instruction called John to care for his master’s mother as if she were his.

On the cross we see not only a God who loved the world but a son who loved his mother. His devotion for the one who gave him birth continued to beat in his breaking heart until he breathed his last. Amazingly, in front of skeptics, mockers and his executioners, Jesus used his ebbing strength to tell her so. There is a bond between a son and his mom that defies simple explanation. Even though Jesus’ relationship with Mary was a unique mother-son relationship, it is likely that his mother had nourished him in the ways of the heart. Mary would have faithfully nourished her son in the intangible qualities of love— tenderness, respect, courage, sensitivity and touch.

When I was an infant, my mother cradled me and sang the songs of faith as I drifted off to sleep. When I began to grow, she baked cakes for my birthdays. She sewed uniforms like the ones my sports heroes wore. She allowed me to dig backyard graves in which to bury birds, butterflies and squirrels.

As my values were being shaped, my mom helped me see treasures often hidden beneath the dust of discarded junk in a thrift store. Her probing questions would not allow me to live at odds with those with whom I did not get along. My five-foot-two-inch mother taught me to never look down on those less fortunate than me and also to look up to those who had something to teach me (no matter their stature). Her love of music taught my soul to sing. Her sense of humor taught me how to laugh. My mother's intimate relationship with her heavenly father rubbed off on me. She taught me how to pray.

When my father suffered a near-fatal heart attack in 1990, I watched my little mother agonize over the possibility of widowhood. In the hospital waiting room I proudly observed the quiet dignity of the woman who had shaped my life and faith like none other. As I witnessed her courage despite her fear, her hope fueled by her faith, and her undying devotion to my dad, I was overwhelmed with love. I shared her concern for my dad's survival, but my concern for her well-being was punctuated by my pounding heart.

It’s no wonder that more long-distance calls are placed on Mother's Day than any other day of the year. There’s a reason that when TV cameras pan professional football players on the sidelines, they are prone to wave to their mothers (read their lips!). Something deep within the heart of the most masculine man longs to pay tribute to the one who gave him birth and nurtured his life. So it stands to reason that Jesus would spend his depleted reserve of words to honor his mother.

Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos is the head of the Mercer Island Covenant Church and a regular contributor to the Reporter.

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