spent the week in dialogue with a most unusual woman.
In hands which should cradle a child, she holds a crown
of thorns. Her fingers are seared as brutally as her son
or daughter's flesh was torn. She is the Mother of the
Disappeared. While this icon might seem an odd choice
for the celebration of Mother's Day, it is appropriate
for reasons larger than Hallmark cards and florists' bouquets.
Her halo reminds us that the parents of the martyred die
inwardly like Mary and are holy like Mary.
all the rules for classic iconography, a handprint smears
the lower left corner of her portrait. It is as out of
place as a jelly blob on a book, a stain on the new carpet
or the grubby marks that children leave on walls. Lest
we become too heady about holiness, it reminds us of reality.
Meeting this icon, I protested, "I don't want to live
with you all week! Your stare condemns my safety and luxury.
Why don't you go away and let me enjoy the apple blossoms,
my daughter's pastel dresses, the joys of spring?" My
instinct to flee seemed supported by a line from the Gospel:
"I came that they might have life in abundance." If Christ's
gift of life has been so cruelly grabbed from these mothers
and their children, what does it mean to me?
replies, "I participate in Christ's trouncing of the death-dealing
forces that stalk all children. Just as the martyrs of
El Salvador played their part in bringing an end to the
civil war, so I stand implacable as conscience. Persistently,
I call oppressors to accountability. Furthermore, I challenge
you to nurture the life you have been given, for it is
fragile and precious."
eyes upon me quiet my annoyance with my children, my frustration
with their little failures. She reminds me that although
I may not understand her particular ordeal, I may confront
other problems. Can I bring them to her serenity, her
conviction that God is with us both in loving support?
still have your children," she reminds me. "Cherish them.
Why do you get irritated when they invade your quiet times?
I would give anything for such a little invasion. But
my arms are empty. My home is silent."
for me as for her, all the children disappear. They grow
up, leave for college, find their own paths. As one mom
lamented, sweeping up debris, "First they break your things.
Then they break your heart." Sometimes the mothers disappear.
My ten-year-old daughter tells me about the little boy
in her class who made a Mother's Day card along with the
other children, but he didn't know where to send it. Mom
left; he lives with his dad.
such heartbreaking separations, we see into the mystery
of God. God says of the beloved people Israel: "How can
I give you up?ůMy heart recoils within me;/ my compassion
grows warm and tender" (Hosea 11:8). Jesus, torn from
his mother on the way to Calvary, can understand our worst
nightmare, and relate to the suffering we most dread.
However difficult our experience with our children may
be, God participates intimately in the relationship. And
that is good news for Mother's Day.
the book Thresholds
is an award-winning author and editor for Living the Good
News. Her recent books include Experiencing God With Your
Children and Hidden Women of the Gospels (Crossroad
Publishing Co.). She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband
and four children.