I am writing this week’s message at the end of Mother’s Day, and I hope you had a lovely family day on Sunday 8 May.

This year, Mother’s Day coincides with Good Shepherd Sunday or Vocations Sunday. In preparing for this week’s message, I thought about our understanding of the word vocation, and of those of us called to be mothers.

Pope Francis has written a message for the Fourth Sunday of Easter with the title, Called to Build the Human Family. The following paragraph says a great deal:

The word “vocation” should not be understood restrictively, as referring simply to those who follow the Lord through a life of special consecration. All of us are called to share in Christ's mission to reunite a fragmented humanity and to reconcile it with God. Each man and woman, even before encountering Christ and embracing the Christian faith, receives with the gift of life a fundamental calling: each of us is a creature willed and loved by God; each of us has a unique and special place in the mind of God. At every moment of our lives, we are called to foster this divine spark, present in the heart of every man and woman, and thus contribute to the growth of a humanity inspired by love and mutual acceptance. We are called to be guardians of one another, to strengthen the bonds of harmony and sharing, and to heal the wounds of creation lest its beauty be destroyed. In a word, we are called to become a single family in the marvellous common home of creation, in the reconciled diversity of its elements. In this broad sense, not only individuals have a “vocation”, but peoples, communities and groups of various kinds as well.

He wrote this message in the context of our journey of synodality. As parents, we are called to be agents of evangelisation, to carry forward God’s mission in the world. The sculptor, painter, architect and poet, Michelangelo, is said to have maintained that every block of stone contains a statue within it, and it is up to the sculptor to uncover it. I think for me, that is what my vocation as a mum, and now as a grandmother, is about. By being present as a woman of faith, my hope is that I continue to form the people with whom Allen and I have been gifted. To quote Pope Francis again:

That is what happens in every vocation: we are met by the gaze of God, who calls us. Vocation, like holiness, is not an extraordinary experience reserved for a few. Just as there is a "holiness of the saints next door" (cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 6-9), so too there is a vocation for everyone, for God's gaze and call is directed to every person.

…..This gaze of Jesus, full of love, rests upon each of us. Brothers and sisters, let us allow ourselves to be moved by this gaze to allow him to lead us outside of ourselves! Let us also learn to look at one another in such a way that all those with whom we live and encounter – whoever they may be – will feel welcomed and discover that there is someone who looks at them with love and invites them to develop their full potential

I hope those of you who have been celebrating Mother’s Day can find yourself in these words of providing the gaze of Jesus to those you have nurtured and loved.

While listening to Fr John Lovell’s homily at the Cathedral tonight, I thought about parenting and the image that is used in scripture of being a shepherd. We frequently subscribe that image to our priests, but tonight I thought about it differently, and reflected on my vocation as a mum. From the moment of each conception, I have felt so protective of the precious gift given to us.

I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me. (John 10:14)

And how true the image of laying down our lives for our children. This vocation teaches us to be truly generous with all that we have – our lives, our resources, our time, our very beings. We do not do this on our own, but within a community. To quote from Pope Francis’ Vocation Sunday message again:

As Christians, we do not only receive a vocation individually; we are also called together. We are like the tiles of a mosaic. Each is lovely in itself, but only when they are put together do they form a picture. Each of us shines like a star in the heart of God and in the firmament of the universe. At the same time, though, we are called to form constellations that can guide and light up the path of humanity, beginning with the places in which we live. This is the mystery of the Church: a celebration of differences, a sign and instrument of all that humanity is called to be. For this reason, the Church must become increasingly synodal: capable of walking together, united in harmonious diversity, where everyone can actively participate and where everyone has something to contribute.

And during this week the Anglican Church of Australia is having a synod and Bishop Peter Stuart, the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle wrote the following in his message to the people of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle:

In 2021, the clergy of the Diocese learnt of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call to leaders to promote reconciliation in a world filled with difference. We explored together 3 habits – being curious with others about the reasons for their different approach, remaining present to others when the exploration feels challenging, imagining the future together. These habits remain vital.

So as mothers, parents, parishioners, clergy, religious, parishioners and people of God may we be curious, remain present and imagine the future together while listening to God and the world. All of us are called to share in Christ’s mission to reunite a fragmented humanity and to reconcile it with God. Remember that the Church, that is us, exists to serve the world.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.