Fifth Sunday of Easter – A
Early this past week I was looking over the great Gospel passage that we just heard with the conversation between Jesus and the Apostle Philip.
Jesus said to His disciples: “No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you know Me, then you will also know my Father.”
And Philip said to Him: “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus, a bit exasperated, I think, said to Philip: “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.”
I was thinking of what I might like to reflect on with you about these verses today. And then it dawned on me: this is Mother’s Day weekend! And I am seasoned enough in ministry to know that if I expect to receive a paycheck this month, I had better not fail to talk about Mother’s Day!
So… I tried to put the two together, and this is where it took me.
Philip saw Jesus all right. But the Father – visible in Jesus – was still invisible to Philip.
This reminded me of a mother named Nicole Johnson who wrote a book entitled, The Invisible Woman: When Only God Sees.
And I thought that you might like to reflect with me upon a passage from this book on this Mother’s Day.
It all began to make sense: the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking: “Can’t you see I’m on the phone?”
Obviously not. No one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible.
Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more. “Can you fix this?” “Can you tie this?” “Can you open this?”
Some days I’m not even a pair of hands. I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, “What time is it?” I’m a satellite guide to ask, “What number is the Disney Channel?” I’m a car to order, “Pick me up at 5:30, please.”
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books, and the eyes that studied history, and the mind that graduated summa cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in.
I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress. It was the only thing I could find that was clean. My hair was pulled up in a clip. I didn’t have time to do anything with it.
I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, “I brought you this.”
It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she had given it to me until I read her inscription:
“To Nicole, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.”
In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:
1) No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names.
2) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.
3) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
4) The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built. He saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.” And the workman replied, “Because God will see it.”
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me: “I see you, Nicole. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.”
At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is actually the cure for my own self-centeredness.
I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder: as one of the people who shows up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.
The writer of the book went so far as to say that no great cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime, because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving: “My mom gets up at four in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand-bastes the turkey for three hours, and presses all the linens for the table.” That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself.
I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add: “You’re going to love it here.
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.
And so writes a mother named Nicole Johnson in her book, The Invisible Woman: When Only God Sees.
Jesus said to Philip: “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.”
And mothers, we pray that whoever sees you will also see the influence of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother too.
Mothers, we are proud of you and grateful for your accomplishments.
You are building great cathedrals!
You are, in cooperation with Jesus, building up His beautiful family, the Church!
Happy Mother’s Day. And God bless you all.