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Sometime in the early Spring the lady geese start laying. At first the eggs, like this one, are somewhat scattered but then, at a moment known only to her, she decides to gather up straw into a nest in the corner of one of the sheds and lays in a more orderly fashion. There she sits for never less than thirty days and sometimes much longer. Very occasionally, she may pop out for a drink or a blade of grass but mainly she sits there the whole time, not eating nor drinking but shuffling straw, rearranging the eggs in the nest and repelling all potential invaders, real or imagined, with fierce hissing. Here then is a model of a mother’s dedication. She gives up all wandering, foraging, socialising, sunbathing even drinking and eating to hatch her chicks.
But then, as we all know, hatching is only the beginning. After that, we have to be taught to eat, crawl, toddle, walk, talk, dress, use a knife and fork; in fact an endless list of things just to be ready to think about flying the nest. Most often it is our parents and often particularly our mothers who provide the inspiration for all these things. We know very little about Jesus’ upbringing, apart from a short incident only recorded by Luke about Jesus as a boy in the temple in Jerusalem; the Gospels are quiet about his home life. It must though have been, as with all of us, vitally important. We see his care for his mother in our Gospel reading when, even in the hour of his agony, torment and death he makes sure that she will be cared for,
“And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.”
There is much in that phrase “into his own home.” It is one of those very human moments in the Gospels when the characters come off the page and live alongside us. Suddenly, John is a real person and has a home and one that Jesus recognises.
Shortly after I had started secondary school, I was somehow persuaded to take part in the school production of the Merchant of Venice. Let me say at once that I was not a precocious Shylock but an urchin, not even the first urchin but one of three or four practically invisible and silent urchins who occupied a small far flung corner of the stage. Nevertheless, for this important role, I was compelled to attend the interminable after school rehearsals that meant I missed the usual transport home and had to fight the mysteries of the National Bus Company timetable, to take the bus home. It took me to the end of our road and so I would have to walk the three-quarters of a mile home from the bus stop late in the black cold winters night.
Aaaaah, I hear you say. In any case, I was hungry, cross and frustrated at squandering so much time for two moments of throwing imaginary stone marbles on a corner of the set that I was sure no none would ever notice. Now our house then, had a kitchen window, which on rounding a corner could be seen from some distance away. I distinctly remember, on one of these nights, walking along, grumbling and groaning aloud to myself, about how much I hated this whole business and wishing that I had never started it, when suddenly the kitchen window came into view and I realised that the golden square of light meant something special, that is was home and that, more than anything else, I wanted to be there.
Mary, in her terrible bereavement, in the frightening days to come, would need a safe place, somewhere to escape the outside world, a place to pull up the drawbridge; a home. Such places are important to all of us even when, like Mary, we are no longer children. While they are often to be found in our parents’ homes, in our modern more complex world they may be somewhere else, with our father, with an adoptive parent, with a grand parent, with a spouse or with a close friend. But wherever that is, I want his morning to give thanks to God, firstly for our Mothers, for we all had a mother, but secondly for that place where we feel safe and loved, for our home, for that place in our hearts where we want to be and for the people there that make it special for us.