Mother

Jesus was by no means sentimental on the subject of mothers. He said that people who loved their mothers more than they loved him were not worthy of him (Matthew 10:37), indicating that duty comes first. And when they told him his mother was outside waiting while he spoke to some group or other, he said that his mother was anybody who did God's will (Matthew 12:50), indicating that his fellow believers came a close second.

To his own mother he could be very abrupt. When she came to him at the wedding in Cana to tell him the wine had given out, he said, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come" (John 2:4), meaning perhaps that she was to let him alone, that at that early point in his ministry he wasn't ready to be known as a miracle worker. He was speaking his heart to her if not exactly reprimanding her, and it was just "woman" he called her, not "mother."

Some of the last words he ever spoke were in her behalf, however. She was standing at the foot of his cross when he told her in effect that from then on his disciple John would look after her. "Behold your son," he said, indicating him to her (John 19:26). Again it was just "woman" he called her, but her welfare and safekeeping were among the last thoughts he ever had.

Our mothers, like our fathers, are to be honored, the Good Book says. But if Jesus is to be our guide, honoring them doesn't mean either idealizing or idolizing them. It means seeing them both for who they are and for who they are not. It means speaking the truth to them. It means the best way of repaying them for their love is to love God and our neighbor as faithfully and selflessly as at their best our parents have tried to love us. It means seeing they are taken care of to the end of their days.

~originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words