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Last Saturday the 6th, Sarah, Tony, Pastor Angel and his wife, Mayela and I went to Lajitas, TX for La Protesta. It is a day when the Border Patrol allows for free passage across the Rio Grande, just for the day, to visit family and friends.
It began a year after May 10, 2010, the Friday before our Mother’s Day, and the very day of Mother’s Day in Mexico. Prior to that day Paso Lajitas on the Mexican side, and Lajitas and Terlingua, TX, were virtually one community. Family, friends, school buddies and softball teams crossed at will. Having an international family with members on both sides of the river was no big deal. It had been that way since before anyone could remember. On that day the Border authorities on the U.S. side closed down the crossing site and arrested 21 people for illegal entry into the United States. Since that day having an international family has been a big deal. Families separated by that thin strip of politically charged water have to go elsewhere to cross—if they have the proper documentation.
There are those who only see their mothers on this day. Mother’s Day in Hispanic culture is huge, compared to Anglo culture. Hispanic mothers often awaken to serenades of “Las Mañanitas” on this day, and are celebrated with flowers, special food and a family party. It stung Hispanics twice as badly that the border was closed at Lajitas on the Mexican holiday of Mother’s Day. It felt like an intentional stab at the very fabric of society upheld by mothers—hence the Spanish name for it, “La Protesta,” “The Protest.”
A member of the Rio Grande Borderland Ministries Board, Martha Stafford, a school-teacher in Terlingua, arranged for us to come. We took a table and set it in the middle of the river and celebrated a bilingual Eucharist. It was the first “official” event of the day, and about 30 people from both sides of the river took communion. We called it, “A Mass for Humanity, Una Misa para la Humanidad,” and we preached about how political divisions do not divide the people of God or the family of humanity.
Mothers, of course, are absolutely essential in the Human Family. Mothers make brothers and sisters. Fathers do as well, of course, but whereas the paternity of a child may be in question, the maternity never is. A mother’s dedication to her children is one of those archetypical truths that human beings carry deep within their souls and will never forget.
As Christians we have a special place for Mothers. It took a human mother to bring the incarnate Son of God into the world. In giving birth to Jesus Mary becomes the Holy Mother of God, Theotokos in Greek, A title endorsed for her by the Church in 431 at the Council of Ephesus. She becomes the mother of everyone who sees in Jesus Christ the divine Son of God, for her response to God is our response to God. In surrender to the will of God we, too, make God present in our world as the Body of Christ.
We get reminders of this from time to time. Flowers, in Aztec culture, were a symbol of the presence of the divine. Our Lady of Guadalupe gave Juan Diego a tilma full of roses when they were out of season. In the intimacy between the Apparition and the heart of Juan Diego something was woven into the world that has inspired and strengthened the lives of millions since 1531. In the Christian sense, then, mothers are the symbol of those who, through intimacy with God, give birth to the divine in our world. Intimacy with God is the warp and mothering the divine is the woof that weaves the tapestry of the Church in the world, making Christ known once more.
The Brotherhood of St. Andrew has graciously provided flowers for the mothers in the congregation this morning. If you are a human mother please make sure you get one that pleases you—but that doesn’t leave the rest of us out. Whether man or woman, girl or boy, we can be mothers of God, too. We do that through intimacy with God.
Intimacy with God requires complete trust. “Let it be with me according to your will” are the words of a soul that trusts explicitly. I have found in my own life that whenever I draw a line in the sand with God. When I first heard God calling me into full time ministry in the Church my response was, “Sure, as long as I don’t have to preach every Sunday!” God knew that I would come to love preaching, but as long as I put conditions on surrender I held intimacy at arm’s length. Mary knew God well enough that when the Angel Gabriel came to her to announce Jesus’ birth she was willing to trust deeply.
One learns to trust deeply by spending time. I would wager that Mary spent much time doing the things that her faith required: daily prayers, attending synagogue in the women’s section, and listening to the men expound on the details of the faith (sorry, ladies, it’s just the way it was back then!) and the yearly festivals. This involves personal commitment and involvement. She harbored in her soul the hope of Israel in the Messiah. When she met the Angel she gave her response as a faithful Israelite. This was a personal faith that mattered in her personal life.
It was personal, yes, but not private. One learns to trust deeply in community. She learned her prayers in the gathering of the pious home. She heard about the hope of Israel at synagogue, and she reiterated and confirmed her faith in the God of Israel at the festivals. When Jesus said that where two or three were gathered in his name he would be there he was not just putting unnecessary strictures on our prayer life. He was describing for us the vital power and importance of community. In community we are formed, we worship and we serve.
The result of intimacy with God is God with us. The other day Karisse and I had a quiet evening at home. It’s a rare occurrence anymore, and we treasure every one of them. It was a time to simply be together. We talked about all the things about which we had not had time to talk. We checked out the fruit trees in the orchard, and spent some time watching our favorite TV show, The Big Bang Theory. We ended the evening with a profound sense of being with one another. There is nothing lonely about that feeling. She was with me and I was with her. We shared our common life.
The results of Mary’s intimacy with God was the birth of our Savior. In the Incarnation God reaches into our world to sit with us as one of us. In becoming one of us he opens the way for us to be with God, and more than just being with God, to be made sharers of a common life with God. The early Church fathers called this the process of theosis. Irenaeus in the 2nd century said that God, “became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.” Theosis is the process by which God becomes present once again in our world through us. In Christ we give birth to a new humanity, one united with God. We are the ongoing Incarnation.
Scientists have recovered DNA from bones from a Mammoth. They are convinced that they can resurrect it by cloning. Jurassic Park may end up being prophetic! If these people are successful Mammoth elephants will no longer be a thing of the past, but of the present. In a much more immediate and far less complicated sense, intimacy with God uncovers the spiritual DNA of Christ within us so that we become, as it were, Christs in our world, “Christians,” if you will. Being Christian is far more than merely belonging to a Christian Church. It is making the life of Christ no longer just a thing of the past, but of the present, giving birth once more to the Savior, and sharing with him in the transformation of our world.
Just as Jesus Christ set his own world on edge, so too, we set our own world on edge, loving radically, giving generously and serving selflessly as he did. When we promise in our Baptismal Covenant to serve others as if they were Christ, and when we promise to fight for justice and peace, we promise to be little Marys giving birth to a new and recreated world. I would hope that this is what we did, even if in a very small way, in Lajitas, Texas on May 6.
Happy Mother’s day!