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Reflection for Mothering Sunday

Lent 4: Mothering Sunday: A Reflection Rob James, Canon Chancellor
Sunday’s Gospel reading: John 19.25b-27 Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
Most years I go on a retreat to the Franciscan community at Glasshampton in Worcestershire. It is known as the house of Mary at the Cross and over the entrance is painted, in large letters, “there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother”. The house itself is not visible from the main road as it is about half a mile away, up a tiny, rutted, undulating track. It comes into view about half way along the track and as soon as I see it I experience a sense of homecoming. There is a peace that descends on me, for I anticipate the peace that I know the place and the people will bring me.  Many of us, I daresay most of us, have a good experience of our own mothers. Some have had to find mothering elsewhere, but still know what good mothering is like. There is homecoming and peace. There is a sense of protection and a sense that here there is a basic community that cannot be separated or entirely broken by distance or time or even death.  It is striking that the last thing instruction that Jesus gives before he dies in the Gospel of John is to the “beloved” disciple (traditionally identified as John) and to Mary. On one level, he is simply looking out for his mother, making sure that she will be alright. On another level, Jesus has formed a new community, a community of his beloved mother and his beloved disciple. Jesus gave other instructions and undertook other actions to besides this to form community, and, in time, the community of Jesus’ followers became the Church.  In Acts we read of how this community met together, prayed together and ate together. In time, the Church expanded so that in our ideal conception of it, there are no boundaries to this community of belovedness. The community which Jesus founded from the cross opens its arms to all and loves all, because this is what God does. And still there are meetings and prayers and food and other fellowship. It is in this place, in relationship with God and with others, that so many find homecoming and peace and meaning.  On the surface, all of that is disrupted at present. The worry of virus transmission means that all sorts of activities are parred right back or are simply not happening. Even worship is affected, and radically so. We are made by our creator to be socially connected, in community, and yet we are now required to be ‘socially distant,’ as the usual terminology puts it. And yet, maybe this is a moment to think again about what is essential and to be creative. The Church may not be able to hold public worship. Even visiting others cannot happen at this time. But we can still be in touch with one another. Telephones, email, even video calls are all possible. And it’s possible (so long as good hygiene is observed) to help the housebound in practical ways, with shopping or with the collection of medication. On the surface, everything is broken, but underneath we may discover a deeper sense of community than ever.  Over the next few months, if we can pay attention to what we discover about what is really important and what is not, then this too will be a homecoming of sorts. It is a chance to grow, to deepen, to discover ourselves as social beings and as sociable, even in a socially distanced world. On the cross, Jesus knew the value of community. Now is the time to be there for one another and to be community, deeply, creatively and imaginatively.

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