The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2019 – Cycle C
Isaiah 66: 10-14c; Psalm 66; Galatians 6: 14-16; Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20
How would it strike you if we began the Eucharist and all our prayers with In the name of the Mother, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit? Or professed our faith in, one God, our Mother, creator of heaven and earth? Or prayed, Our Mother, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name?
Do you find the image of God as a mother shocking? …disorienting or confusing?
Does the change in imagery open up the possibility of new approaches to encounter our God? Does the image make you feel uncomfortable or affirmed?
I wonder how different our responses depend on whether we are a woman or a man.
Men, consider that for the two millennia of Christianity, women of various ages and cultures have only been offered male images of God: father, shepherd, king, husband, and warrior. How might our relationship with God as men alter or be transformed if we interchangeably called our God, mother, as well as father?
Women, what is it like to consider calling God, mother with all of its connotation that you have experienced? How might your relationship with God as women alter or be transformed if we interchangeably called our God, mother as well as father?
The ancient Hebrews and Jews seem to have had a broader palate to choose from in their use of images for God as we hear in the prophet Isaiah. Even Jesus in his parables uses the image of a woman cleaning her house looking for a lost coin as a depiction of God looking for a lost sinner. Why are we less familiar with this female image of God than with the story of the father image and his prodigal sons?
Jesus even refers to himself in female terms as he contemplates the future destruction of Jerusalem. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,…how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” [Luke 13:34]. He wants to so protect his people as any mother or father would from impending danger.
It is this mother image of God that Isaiah offers us. It is God who is speaking:
“Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her [my] comfort,
that you may nurse with delight at her [my] abundant breasts.”
“As nurslings, you shall be carried in her [my] arms,
and fondled in her [my] lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you…”
Such a natural and normal image, isn’t it? Mother and child. What better way to describe the self – giving nature of our God than as a nursing mother. It is the image at the heart of the Christmas feast. Can we transfer that image from Mary and Jesus to God and us? Have you ever spiritually experienced or pictured in your prayer God carrying you, fondling you, playing with you?
At a Fourth of July gathering I attended, there were four children, a two week old and three toddlers. No one thought it unusual to pick up any of the children and hold them, chase them, play with them, kiss them. Do we not believe that our God does the same with us?
If anyone is uncomfortable with such a natural image of a mother feeding her child from her own body, then we need to ask, why? And how much of our response is conditioned by our culture? When was the last time you saw a woman breastfeeding – and in public? The question may be, why not?
Consider that a pregnant woman feeds the growing child within her with her own blood and nutrients and then with her own milk.
Consider that Jesus, like a mother, feeds us with his own body and blood as well. In fact, we continue to be nourished by Jesus at Holy Communion – his body, his blood.
How might this mother image nurture and mature our experience of and relationship with God and Jesus?