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Opinions of Monday, 9 May 2011

Columnist: Anyimadu-Ahenkae, Augustine

The Vocation Of Motherhood- A Mother's Day Reflection

By: Augustine Anyimadu-Ahenkae



“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?...” - Isaiah 49:15a



HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY TO ALL OUR MOTHERS! HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY TO ALL OUR WOMEN, YOUNG AND OLD!



Another mothers’ day is here and amidst the well-deserved fanfare, giving of gifts, best wishes and the messages of love, we could perhaps pause for a moment to reflect on this sublime vocation of motherhood, its uniqueness, ups and downs, models of inspiration, and perhaps offer some thoughts about paths to fulfillment for our dear mothers.



TAKEN FOR GRANTED



Human as we are, engaged in the hustle and bustle of trying to make ends meet in life, amidst our very busy schedules, we seldom find time to reflect on the most important things and gifts of life, as we take most of these for granted. It is when we, by any dint of misfortune, lose these things, that we tend to see how important they were to us. For example, if we have legs to walk, we take our mobility for granted, until a day when we are unable to walk for one reason or another, through accidents, then we tend to appreciate how precious mobility is and how we must make good use of it. Same thing happens with the life God has given us. We take a lot of things for granted until we fall seriously sick and are at the verge of dying- then we start making all kinds of promises to God to heal us in return for some commitment on our part. But soon after we are well, we forget again.



It is this same kind of forgetfulness that makes us take the gift of our mothers for granted. Because we always have them around, and because we know they love us, we often take their roles for granted, expecting them to perform their duties as mothers as usual but often forgetting to at least complement them, not to talk of supporting them in many instances. How soon we forget that as human beings, the performance of these motherly roles and duties demand a lot of effort, sacrifice and diligence on their part, and as such needs to be acknowledged and complemented! That is why on an occasion like this, when we have the chance to say thank you dear mothers for they you are and what they do for us all, we grab the opportunity with both hands, and want to go a step further to analyze their roles in our lives and how some Biblical models can offer a little inspiration to our mothers. Thank you very much, our mothers!



MOTHERHOOD: A SUBLIME VOCATION FROM GOD



God could have brought forth every human being by himself alone, just as he did to Adam, and to Eve as well. Instead, he decided to use other human beings –mothers and fathers- to continue in this act of procreation. That God chose to do it this way has a lot of implications. Among the many implications, it shows



- how important and exalted the role of mothers is in God’s view



- how united and dependent on each other God wants the family to be-mother, father, children



- how intertwined the role of the mother is with that of the father.



A little on the last point. The fact that the task of procreation was given to both the man and the woman shows how they need and complement each other. In other words, there cannot be a mother without a father, nor can there be a father without a mother. Both of them, mother and father, have been called to this singularly sublime and unique vocation of parenthood. Still, mothers have their special roles, and fathers have theirs. Seen in this perspective, as a unique vocation from God, and not just springing from human source, the task of motherhood assumes its proper character as a sacred duty, a duty given by God, commissioned by Him, empowered by Him, blessed by Him, and filled with His assistance which is available upon request. AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST, I said.

In the Bible, God is described in various ways with the image of a mother, even though the word “mother” is not ascribed to him ( cf Is 49:14-15; 66:13, Ps 131:2-3)



The exaltation of and the unique importance of motherhood is also recorded in the New Testament when God decided to send His son into the world to save us. St. Paul, recounting the event in his epistle to the Galatians, said:



“when the fullness of time had come, God sent his son, BORN OF A WOMAN…..”

(Galatians 4:4, Emphasis mine). Why did he need to state again that God’s son was born of a woman, when there is no other way in which humans could have been born? The emphasis cannot be ignored. In this woman, this mother, the role of motherhood has been raised to an entirely new and higher level.



PATHS TO FULFILLMENT



Following Jesus’ express declaration of intent that he came that we may have life and have it to the fullest, and in the heels of the feast we are still celebrating now- Easter- which reminds us that Christ has won victory for us in every area of our endeavour, it is proper and fitting that we do not merely contend ourselves with passing through life, but seek fulfillment in whatever we are doing with it. This principle affects all aspects of our lives, including the role of being a mother. God wants us to be happy and fulfilled in him. Consequently, the role or sacred duty He gives us should not be like a burden on us, but something we should enjoy.



However, we all know the ups and downs of motherhood, both in the physical processes through which a new baby is born- the pregnancy, the birth pangs, the labor, the operations some have to go through , etc- as well as the duty of bringing up the child, together with (and sometimes without ) the father. We cannot have space here to recount the pains and sacrifices many mothers go through, to the extent that some regret ever having a child.



Believe it or not, for many mothers, today may be the only day they get the love they deserve. After today, it comes back to the same old story: husbands not supporting and cooperating, leaving the care of the children to the women alone while they go about irresponsibly frolicking with other women; children who have clearly gone out of hands, taken to their own wayward ways, children whom the mothers are even afraid of- and afraid to send, and many others. For us Ghanaians those in places like America where the laws overstretch the reach of the kids so much that some parents are even afraid of their own kids, the challenges are immense. So what do the mothers do?



DIVINE STRENGTH FOR SUPPORT



The good news is that for each and every pain any mother can go through, there is more than ample divine strength and grace for support and healing. This is because of the fact we have discussed above, that motherhood is from God, and if it is from God, then He has already made available ample graces and helps not only for mothers to be able to go through it well, but also to enjoy it, to be fulfilled in it. He said he came, not just that we have life, but have it in fulfillment, to the fullest, in abundance (cf Jn 10:10). All that our mothers have to do today, if they are facing difficulties in raising children, or any other issues connected with “womanhood” ( cf “born of a woman”-Gal 4:4), is to turn to JESUS in serious and earnest prayer, and He will take care of it.



A CLOUD OF WITNESSES: BIBLICAL MODELS



I keep saying I thank God for letting me be born today rather than yesterday for two reasons: one, because those of us alive and kicking now have the benefit of the struggles and victories of past human beings to guide us for our own victory; and two because the technological inventions of today have made it easier now for us to be able to accomplish many things if only we apply ourselves to them. The first reason is particularly important for today’s discussion. The Bible presents us with many models of women who have passed through struggles as mothers, and how God intervened in their lives to ameliorate their struggles. May our mothers find in these women inspiration and spur to carry on their own duties as mothers. I present just a few of them here.



SARAH: YOUR MIRACLE IS ON THE WAY



I start with Sarah because she represents those who have tried in many ways to become a mother, but have not succeeded and therefore have lost all hope. Sarah was the legitimate wife of Abraham who had been promised that he would be the father of many nations, yet despite their old age, were still childless. After many prayers, when finally the angel of the Lord appeared and prophesied of her motherhood, she had lost hope and did not believe. Before you judge her, please remember you and I have done that several times over. Sarah looked at her physical conditions and doubted the word of God. So do we, and so do many women seeking childbirth or spouses. If you have been praying for a child or spouse, and all attempts have been fruitless, remember to hold out to the end and not lose hope- believe in the creative word of God and your miracle will be on the way.



HANNAH: DO IT FOR ME OR I WON’T LEAVE YOU



Hannah, mother of Samuel, represents all women who have been ridiculed or are being ridiculed because they are childless. Her persistence and endurance in prayer is the type Jesus would later on praise and admonish us all to follow, when he gave the example of the woman and the unrighteous judge. It is the kind of faith needed to move mountains of impossiblilities in our lives. It is the faith that says. “unless you do it for me, Lord, I won’t leave you”. To what extent have you prayed to God for your miracle? Hannah shows you that whatever the cause of your childlessness is, be it barrenness or not, medical condition or not, the word of God is able to permeate through and set you free.



EVE: DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WORD SOWS BAD SEED



Perhaps none other, apart from the mother of Jesus for a different reason, suffered motherly heartaches as much as Eve, the first mother. She, being the mother of all the living, had a unique chance to plant a good seed of obedience to God’s word in her home-and in all of us. She messed it up, and even though we do not fault her of the evil caused by her son Cain in killing his brother Abel, we now know from hindsight that when the seed of disobedience to God is planted anywhere, it reaps a harvest of violence, chaos and evil. Ask David. As always, God forgives and heals, and she had a good son in Seth. For all mothers who have bad children, ask yourself how far you implanted the word of God in them, beyond merely going to church. The good news is that your enduring prayers for them, like Saint Monica my mother (mother of Saint Augustine), will convert them in the end.



The list is endless. Let me add just a few:



SALOME: SHOOT FOR THE STARS, YOUR KIDS DESERVE THE BEST



One of the women I’ve grown to like very much in the Bible, but who many of us easily condemn without reflecting much deeper about the implications of her actions, is Salome, the mother of James and John. We read in Mathew 20 that she came forward to request of Jesus that her two sons sit at Jesus’ either hand in his kingdom. That’s pretty ambitious, isn’t it? Rightly so, she earned the condemnation and indignation of the other disciples, as well as we the readers. However, we are mistaken when we end the story there. We all know that in the end, there were three apostles who were in the inner circle of Jesus: Peter, James and John. As a matter of fact, it was only these three that Jesus took to the mountain of transfiguration. After Pentecost they were known as the pillars of the church, and even Saint Paul had to acknowledge that. However, have you thought about it that these same James and John are the two sons whose mother Salome asked of Jesus to give place of importance, and was condemned? As a matter of fact, John became “the disciple Jesus loved most”, and he was the one in whose care Jesus entrusted His mother on the cross, in John 19. So, did Salome’s ambition for her kids reap fruits? Sure they did.



Remember, “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violence take it by storm”. What kind of ambition do you have for your kids? How far can you go for your kids? What sacrifices can you make for your kids’ future? It will pay off



EUNICE AND LOIS; ANNA: TRAIN THE CHILD THE WAY TO GO…..



The eternal principal of good home training from childhood has stood the test of times, and if the training is good enough and implanted into kids by word and example, they will grow well. Mothers who typify this include Eunice and Lois, mother and grandmother respectively of Timothy, who trained Timothy so well in the scriptures(cf 2 Tim 1:5) Timothy was such a good boy, so well versed in scriptures that St Paul loved him like his own son. Remember St. Paul himself had also had such training and was zealous for the Lord.



One compelling example that we often overlook is the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Anna. She, like Hannah did of Samuel, made Mary love God from her very infancy, praying for hours in the temple. No wonder she returned the favour to Jesus when he was a kid.



From experience, the significance of such an early immersion into God cannot be overemphasized, so mothers who want their kids to excel… the ball is in your court.



REBEKAH: CHOOSING BETWEEN KIDS BRING ENMITY



Isaac’s wife Rebekah who manipulated and aided Jacob to scheme and take the birthright of his elder brother Esau reminds us that preferential treatment given to our kids does not pay off. Isau almost killed Jacob.

RACHEL, mother of Joseph and Benjamin who lost her life during the birth of Benjamin is a reminder of mothers who give the supreme sacrifice for their kids. The destiny of Joseph is a reminder to such orphans that God is always with them.



THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY: SUMMARY OF ALL



I cannot have enough pages to write on the benefits not only mothers but all Christians will gain in imitating the mother of Jesus, according to St Paul’s injunction in Phil 2: 6-8. This is not only because she was specially chosen by God and was FULL of grace even before Jesus was born to bring grace unto humanity (cf John 1:17), but also because she, being truly human in every sense of the word, cooperated fully with the grace of God, and thus conquered all the trials and hardships that came her way by her response to God’s grace.

Whereas other models of motherhood exemplify one or another virtue, she typifies all of them.



In her trust in God’s word even when she did not understand it and when her physical conditions determined otherwise- ie, told to give birth as a virgin- she asked God how it would be possible, and believed in the word of the angel. Contrast that to Sarah’s. In her daily prayers at the temple, and in her advice to the wedding hosts to do whatever Jesus told them, she showed to what extent her faith in Jesus was- that her son would be able to do the impossible, even though His time was not yet. It was like the faith shown by others who merited praise from Jesus during his ministry – the woman with issue of blood, Syro-phoenician woman, the army commander, and others. The intended length of this article will not permit me to explore fully what a model of motherhood Jesus’ mother is. Powerful audio CDs and booklets have been made by this author on this and related topics which can be obtained by sending email to gtrabboni@yahoo.com





IN CONCLUSION



What could we have done without our mothers? The rest of us- children and spouses, wish to salute all our mothers, the MMAASIMA who make the impossible possible in our various homes, who believe in us the kids when the husbands are yet to, our counselors in the homes, our advocates, our first teachers, and our best friends throughout our lives. Even though challenges of modernity threatens to continually shift the role of mothers, and make fathers of some mothers, your place in our hearts remain unchanged. God richly bless you and shower his gifts on you. May you enjoy your vocation of motherhood, and be fulfilled especially in seeing your offspring prosper. For our aspiring mothers, may the spirit of the Lord guide you and lead you to find the saint Josephs who will understand your unique gifts and appreciate you, as you both fulfill your vocations of parenthood. May He grant it even so, AMEN



DEDICATED TO ALL OUR MOTHERS,

Especially, The Ghanaian Obaasima, wherever she lives

With special mention of my biological mother:

Mrs Cecilia Abena Boakyewah Anyimadu, a model of OBAASIMA.

God bless you, Maame.



Not forgetting all our mothers at

Christ the King Ghanaian Catholic Community, New York

May you all find true fulfillment in the vocation and years God has given you on earth. God bless you all.



God bless Our Homeland Ghana/And make our nation great and strong/bold to defend forever/The cause of Freedom and of Right /Fill all our hearts with true humility/Make us cherish Fearless, honesty/And help us to resist oppressors’ rule/With all our will and might forevermore.



-Augustine Anyimadu-Ahenkae

New York, NY

Mothers’ Day, 2011

gtrabboni@yahoo.com



References:

Anyimadu-Ahenkae Augustine. “Ayekoo To Our Mothers”. Ghanaweb article www.ghanaweb.com/religion. May 9, 2010

The Holy Bible. New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc. 1982. Print.