Johnny was out shopping with his mother one morning. Feeling a bit bored, he happened to look up at the windows of the nearby cathedral. He wasn’t very impressed. From the outside, they looked drab and dull and a bit grimy. He said as much to his mother when she came out of the market.
‘Just let’s go inside,’ she said to him. So, they went into the cathedral, and his mother took him to where the big stained-glass windows were.
At first, Johnny was entranced by the magical coloured patterns on the stone floor of the ancient cathedral. They seemed to dance in front of him as the morning light streamed through the mighty windows. ‘Look at that,’ he pointed to the dancing image on the stone floor. ‘What is it, Mum?’
‘Well,’ his mother replied, ‘actually, that’s a saint. See the window up there, which looked so dull from the outside? There’s a saint up there in the stained glass, and the light is shining through her and making her picture dance for us here on the stone floor.’
Johnny stored up this information in his heart, and the two of them went home.
A few days later, Johnny’s class was having a religious instruction lesson. The teacher was talking about saints. ‘What do you think makes a saint?’ she asked the class.
Johnny’s hand shot up. ‘A saint is someone the sun shines through,’ he explained, ‘and when that happens, the stones come to life.’
‘Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.’
It took me the entire week to decide what to say this morning, on Mother’s Day. I struggled, and prayed, and struggled some more. A small voice kept telling me to go deep into my heart and talk from there; after all, the heart is the center of one’s personality. At first, I was a bit nervous and I needed Jesus to remind me, as he reminds his still anxious disciples, to not let their hearts be troubled, agitated or stirred up.
That same voice kept telling me to speak to you not as your rector, but as a fellow congregant. So, this morning, on Mother’s Day, I decided to talk about my mom. She went home nine months ago.
She and dad and my little brother drove me to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in 1978. As she hugged me goodbye, she whispered in my ear, ‘Just remember, this is what you always wanted to do.’ What I did not know then, was that mom was that saint for me on that day, letting the sun shine through her to bring me, a stone, to life.
Throughout the challenging days of my priesthood, mom was always there. Somehow, she knew when I would come home to spend a day or two with them, that something in my ordained ministry was eat at my soul. Like Jesus, she would often remind me that I was not to let my heart be troubled, but that I was to let the light of the sun shine through me to help bring other stones to life, after all, that is what I always wanted to do. Herself, being a rock of faith for me, would always remind me to have faith in God, to trust, to believe that what I was doing was from God and that God would be my strength.
All of us ultimately, know the way to heaven, but like Jesus’ disciples we need reminders from time to time. Mom was that saint who would remind me, ‘You know the way to Jesus, you know that Jesus is the way, because he is the truth and life.’
What mom was trying to remind me was that I had all the information but sometimes, I lacked the will to put it all together. At times, I grew tired and weary of ordained ministry, yet this wonderful saint of God would often point me in the right direction, as Jesus did for his disciples.
If anything, mom reminded me that we are saints and stones.
Stones, of which the Church is built. Stones that dance and come to life when the light of the Son of God shines through us. Saints, because we all, in some way or another, allow the sun to shine through us. It might not happen all the time; there are often clouds that block the sun; sometimes, the challenges of life bring us down and like yesterday, there is lots of rain. But that’s okay...according to mom, eventually the sun is going to permeate us, shine through us, and the stones will come to life.
Recently, a medium told me, ‘Your mother is telling me, tell him everything he believes is true: there is a God, there is heaven, there is grace.’ Regardless if that individual was right or not, it sounded exactly like something mom would say to her son, the priest. She had seen those challenging days, those trying pastoral moments and she knew what she had to do. She was called to be not only my saint, but my stone.
You moms who are here this morning...I think it is safe to say that I know you. I know that you too, like my mom, are saints and stones for your own children. You know the challenges of life, of marriage, of motherhood, of being a woman and who, in many instances, are stronger than us men. It was from my own mom that I received the gift of faith, and from my dad, the gift of courage.
You moms know that from time to time, your children need reminders that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. More than anything, you moms know that your children are also saints and stones.
Your motherhood is like that stained glass window in the ancient cathedral, shining through your family so that the stones might come to life and dance. And like my mom, you know that it is not always easy. There are those difficult stones that refuse to come to life; you try and try, yet they remain stones that cannot be moved. And sometimes, you also might need a reminder or two that you know the way to heaven; it’s just that like your children must be reminded, so do you.
Our mom had already left us several years prior. Those of you who know the pain of Alzheimer’s know how ugly it is. Yet, even though it seems that your loved one is not there, they are weighed down by layers of heavy fabric – that horrible disease – but beneath all of that, is still the saint and the stone.
On one of my trips back to Texas to see my parents, I went with dad to the nursing home where mom died and paid her a visit. This was several years ago. When I was about to say goodbye to mom, I asked her if she wanted to pray with me, and she said, ‘No, I don’t feel like praying much anymore.’ It was in that moment that I knew that it was my turn to be the saint. To allow the Sun of God, Jesus, the way, the truth and the life, to shine through me so that this frail stone could dance and come to life. And while that never happened right in front of me, something told me that that stone in front of me, got it. She knew!
So, on this Mother’s Day, I say to you mom’s, ‘Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.’
Remember, you are both saints and stones!