In the First Reading last weekend, we heard these words from the prophet Isaiah: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” (Is. 49:15)
This passage uses the love of a mother as an example of unconditional love. Notice that it does not use the word “father” or the gender-neutral term “parent.” Fatherhood also involves unconditional love, but the image given here is a maternal one. There is something special about a mother’s love for her children, and it is being invoked in this passage.
Scientists explain the unique bond that exists between mother and child in terms of chemicals. According to studies, a woman’s body releases powerful hormones during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, causing her to connect emotionally with her new baby. This special bond is apparent to anyone who sees a new mother holding her child – underneath her exhaustion is an unmistakable joy and radiance that cannot be denied.
Motherhood is a beautiful gift and an opportunity to witness to the world. In the role of mother, women are called to express unconditional love to their children, reflecting the love that God has for his people. This special role of motherhood was once valued in society. Women were traditionally homemakers. Raising children was understood to be a respectable full-time job, stemming from the immense love that a mother had for her children.
Today, however, society has lost respect for motherhood. Women often have to work, and it is difficult for them to stay home with their children. Even when they are at home, they are often distracted from their children. Our culture tells us that our main priority in life should be to seek our own personal fulfillment and happiness. Children are secondary to this, and we should not allow them to conflict with our other ambitions. Those women who do choose to stay home and raise their children are often ridiculed for this decision. The role of homemaker has been degraded and is no longer viewed as an admirable pursuit.
Our society today attacks the role of the mother in other ways as well. Contraception treats motherhood as a disease to be prevented, and abortion treats it as a mistake to be fixed. Gay “marriage” disregards the need for both a mother and a father, undermining the distinctions that make them each unique. In vitro fertilization views motherhood as a “right” that a woman can demand, rather than a blessing for which she should be truly thankful.
Amid these threats coming from every direction, the words of Isaiah still ring true. Today, the need for devoted mothers is greater than ever. God is asking us as women to glorify Him by doing something that comes naturally to us. He is asking us to use our maternal ability to give tender, unfailing love to our children in order to show His unfailing love to the world. Let us pray that all women who have been blessed with the gift of motherhood will take this calling seriously and respond to it generously, realizing the great dignity and value in what they are doing.