Weekly Reflections: Theology of motherhood


“Have mercy on me, sir! My daughter has a demon and is in a terrible condition”
Matthew 15: 22

Tale of Two Mothers

When we talk of motherhood, there are two stories that would come to my mind. One is found in I Kings 3:16-28. It was written to illustrate King Solomon’s wisdom. The story is about two prostitutes who were living in one house, each of whom had given birth to a son. Then, one morning one of the two babies was found dead. Both mothers claimed for themselves the other baby who was alive.

And so, the case was brought to King Solomon. The King ordered the baby to be cut into two, and to give each woman half of it. However, one of the women said to the King, “Please, Your Majesty, don’t kill the child! Give it to her!” But the other woman said, “Don’t give it to either of us; go on and cut it into two!” Then, King Solomon said, “Don’t kill the child! Give it to the first woman – she is the real mother!”

Indeed, King Solomon was wise. Wisdom is a lesson learned from life. The King knew by experience that real motherhood is not merely giving birth to a child, but also having love and compassion for a child. It’s really unfortunate that from time to time we read and hear news of new born babies thrown in the garbage or simply abandoned by mothers who give birth to them. A woman who does not have any love and compassion for her child is not real a mother.

Absentee Mothers

The other story is rather contemporary and personal. Onetime, I had a chance to visit Singapore on my way to a conference in Indonesia. It was a Sunday, and so I went to the People’s Park where Filipino migrant workers often congregate. There I met some Filipina domestic helpers; some of them I knew personally, because they came from my hometown. Most of them, I realized, were mothers. They left their children back home to earn a living as domestic helpers in Singapore.

They shared with me their problems and difficulties; how they were treated by their employers. Some were treated well, but most of them confessed their hardships. In any case, they had to endure and finish their contracts, because they had to send their children to school.

Then, one of them, a mother of three from Pangasinan, burst into tears. She could not bear the fact that while her employer’s sons were healthy her own sons back home were sickly and malnourished. They would need a mother to take care for them, especially at this point in time when they are still in their formative years. She left the country to earn a living for her own children’s sake, but in reality at their own expense ironically.

As I was listening to their stories, I began to wonder what really motivates a mother to face all risks and difficulties in life for the sake of her children. I don’t think it is merely economic deprivation and the lure of modern life. I would say love and compassion. It is love and compassion that motivates a mother to move heavens and earth to give her children the fullness of life.

Mother’s Day is Every Day

Now, I’m telling these stories, because motherhood is specially celebrated in this month of May. Motherhood, however, should be celebrated each day. Of course, in celebration we are supposed to think of joyful things, and not the grim realities and challenges of responsible motherhood.

But this is precisely my point. Genuine motherhood shines fully well not when everything is running smoothly, but when life is dark and gloomy. Members of the family may be torn between impatience and endurance when faced with afflictions. But the warmth of a mother’s love and compassion could and should stand still when all the rest are stricken down in confusion and despair.

I believe God has endowed every mother a special capacity to endure trials and difficulties. God’s presence is very much felt with the loving care of a mother. Some are even saying that God cannot be present everywhere that’s why he created mothers. The mother in the home should always be a symbol of strength, manifested in her virtue of lasting endurance and sobriety over every crisis in life. If the mother in the home is bereft of firm trust and fails to uphold humble endurance, then certainly the home is doomed to fail and sorrow will multiply.

Canaanite Mother

In Matthew 15:21-28, we read the story a Canaanite mother who lived near the cities of Tyre and Sidon. She came to Jesus crying out: “Son of David! Have mercy on me! My daughter has a demon and is in a terrible condition.”

Now, is this not the same kind of cry we are hearing from mothers in our society today? Are they not also crying for mercy, for help like this Canaanite mother, so that their sons and daughters would not be corrupted by the demonic forces of this present age? Are they not also calling for the authorities including the church – the Son of David, so to speak – to do something in order that their sons and daughters would be freed from every form of diseases that are eating up the moral fibers of our society?

Take note of the response of the disciples: they sent her away. And the reason they gave was that she was making a lot of noise. Most often than not, this is how authorities respond to cries of people. They would simply dismiss them as mere noise.

But the Canaanite mother was persistent. A mother’s compassion could not be hindered by any form of discouragement or shame. Even though she was driven away like a dog, still she said that she would gladly eat the leftovers like a dog. Jesus saw in this mother a great expression of faith, hope, and love. And it was this kind of faith, hope, and love that made her daughter whole again.

Indeed, genuine faith, hope, and love are not possible without compassion. It was compassion for her daughter that led the Canaanite mother to a redemptive faith, hope, and love in Jesus Christ. Faith in God in behalf and for the sake of others makes healing and divine grace possible. Faith, when compassionately and generously shared with others, can touch the burning compassion of the living God.

And so, as we celebrate motherhood, let us remember the great mothers – living and dead – whose compassionate faith, hope, and love have become channels of blessing and healing to those in need. Let us pray that God grant us the grace to give due respect and honor to our mothers through all the days of our lives that we may live long lives in this land God has graciously given to us (cf. Dt. 5:16). Amen.# nordis.net


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