Every child in my house seemed to be crying out in a crisis colliding at the same moment. My teenager came howling in the door—sure that he had broken his foot—my toddler had just had an accident in his underwear, my ten-year-old asked what was burning on the stove, and I stood holding onto the line with my daughter crying on the other end. I was supposed to have mailed out a birthday package to my eldest away in college, but the five o’clock hour had now come and gone. It was then that a wave of pregnancy nausea mixed with exhaustion made me physically spin.
All day I had felt pulled in more directions than I had limbs, and this culminating moment was the capstone. In retrospect, it was actually an ordinary day—no real crisis. The foot was not actually broken. The messy laundry was loaded. Dinner was salvaged. Tears were eventually dried. I could make that post-office run in the morning. But my husband came home to my tear-stained face. That evening I fell into bed, and a gnawing feeling of dark failure pressed in, silently pleading with the heavens to be my source, to be my light.
And when my husband asked about my day I had no words—no loftiness of speech or of wisdom—to declare. Very similar to St. Paul’s words in today’s second reading. Paul goes further to say he knows nothing, no worldly wisdom but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I was with you in weakness, and in fear, he confesses. How many times in my vocation as a mother do I feel crucified by demands and weakened by exhaustion, afraid the family dynamics are simply not adding up.
I then reflect back on today’s first reading, wherein the prophet Isaiah exhorts the righteous to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and harbor them in thy house. Isn’t this what my most ordinary day of washing clothes and caring for my brood look like—feeding, clothing, harboring souls? The promise Isaiah proclaims is the one I need now, and so often in this vocation wherein I am poured out. He speaks forth in a powerful benediction—Then thy light shall break forth like the morning . . . thou [shalt] call, and the Lord shall hear: thou shalt cry, and he shall say, “Here I am.”
Mothers are those who pour themselves out, like Christ crucified, in domestic works of mercy, but it is those very works imbued with the light of Christ that become the safe harbor for the souls of children who one day become the next generation. We daily offer the best of our bodies, our ingenuity, our skill, our talent—all for both nourishment and flourishing of light in the souls of our children. And this is finally the pulse of the Gospel reading . . . You are the light of the world.
If the darkness loomed this past week because you felt like the tasks were endless, the demands were too daunting, your best efforts went unseen, your work insignificant to the world at large.
If you cried out to God because . . . you felt helpless in meeting your child’s need, you felt like you could not handle any more bickering, you tried to train but with no results, you felt you were just not enough.
If you felt lost in the dark a bit . . . know this: You are the light of your children’s world—a living testament. You are the light of the world!