One of my best friends and climbing partners became a mother several years before I did, and we had the rare opportunity to rock climb again when she was a mother of two little ones. “You lead,” she said matter of factly, as we were gearing up at the base of the cliff. “I’m a mom now.” The risks—and in turn the rewards—are certainly greater for the lead climber than the second, or follower. At the time, I could see the reason for her sacrifice, but it wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I truly felt the fear of leaving my children motherless or orphaned. And while I haven’t hung up my harness post-kids, motherhood has undoubtedly tamed my level of adventure.
Just as we understand our children’s vital need for us and want to be present to mother them, so too does Jesus understand our need for him, our pressing need to be children of a God who is near to us. Thus, when he reassures us of his everlasting fatherhood, it is one of the most powerful and comforting lines in all the Gospels: I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you (Jn 14:18).
God does not abandon his children. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth . . . you know him because he remains with you and will be in you (Jn 14: 16-17). Indeed, Jesus’s whole mission was to re-establish our filial relationship to God, which we had ruptured through sin. Jesus’s death on the cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit achieve this restored relationship, no longer orphans but adopted sons and daughters. We remain daughters of the Father because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let us not neglect this most precious gift.
In the second reading for today, St. Peter urges us, Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts (1 Pt 3:15). Such sanctity is not the product of our own doing. We do not live joyfully in our identity as beloved children of God and exalt Jesus as Lord of our hearts because we managed to keep our Lenten resolutions. Sanctity does not come from half-hearted attempts to pray more (ahem . . .). It is not the result of a self-improvement project. It doesn’t happen because we finally get organized or eat better or exercise more. It cannot wait until the kids are older. It won’t wait until the corona crisis has passed, and things are “normal” again, and there are fewer people in our house all the time. Such sanctity is only the fruit of a radical opening of oneself to the Holy Spirit. It is he who sanctifies us. It is through the Spirit that we know the love of the Father.
We, of course, want our children to know our undying love for them; we want them to know their identity as members of a particular family; we want to give them only good gifts that will enrich their lives and fill their hearts; we want them to know what power they have to do great works in the world—to heal, to teach, to preach, to cast out demons, to mend the broken hearted—and we want them to have the courage to do it and the wisdom to know how. God the Father wants the same for you, dear mother. Invite the Holy Spirit into your heart and home today and ask to be transformed.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.