In an episode of The Simpsons, Moe, the bartender, shows Homer his new deep fryer, delivered on the trailer of an 18-wheeler. He’s proud of the massive gadget, and brags, “The deep fryer’s here! I got it used from the Navy. You could flash fry a buffalo in forty seconds!”
And Homer whines, “Forty seconds? But I want it now!”
This scenario is familiar to anyone within 24 hours of delivering a baby. Ubiquitous in our lives as mothers, we encounter it at every turn, and every age.
Babies cry to be fed, toddlers want the toy, teenagers the phone. Husbands aren’t immune (we won’t go there). And they all want it NOW.
And what is our maternal response to these restive, fretful yearnings?
Do we respond sharply when the kids ask again to watch TV? What’s our reaction to our daughter’s eye roll when we tell her she must earn the right to use the car? What about when the water heater floods the kitchen when we’re ready for an evening out?
We feel burning impatience wrack our nerves, that’s what, because its root is our desire to be in control. We want other people, and the circumstances of our lives, to conform to our timetable, our best idea of the universe. And because we are mothers, we want the best for our families. Sometimes, these things are compatible. But when there’s a fail, we, too, feel impatient, annoyed at having to wait, and even violated in our personal freedom.
In today’s Gospel, Lk 12:49-53, we hear an excited impatience in the voice of Jesus speaking to Peter in the midst of the crowds:
I have come to light a fire on the earth. How I wish the blaze were ignited! I have a baptism to receive. What anguish I feel till it is over! Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? I assure you, the contrary is true; I have come for division. From now on, a household of five will be divided three against two and two against three; father will be split against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in- law.
Obviously, Jesus does not want to destroy the earth—the blaze he is so eager to see burning is a cleansing fire, the proclamation of his Kingdom—the pyre, his own precious Body. Jesus knows his way will be hard, and it will create discord and rebellion even within families. But he gives control entirely to us!
He gives us the freedom to choose his love.
And in choosing, we can channel our impatience and trials into the flame of Christ’s love and claim our rightful place as mothers of our families—Jesus’ family. Yes, we love, oh, how we love, but it isn’t necessarily easy. For any of us.