Question from the pastoral letter: “What does it mean to you to think of God’s love as like that of a mother or coming from a mother’s womb?”
By Kateri Mancini
When asked to reflect on this question, I immediately thought of the quote from Elizabeth Stone that says “to make the decision to become a mother is … to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
I have found this to be true.
I remember one of the first times I truly knew fear as a mother. My son was quite ill. Still a baby in so many ways, his small body and mind couldn’t comprehend what was happening or the pain he was feeling. I remember vividly the night I sat up with him all night, holding him upright to help him breathe better, rocking him as he cried and I wept during those long, dark hours.
His head on my shoulder and his chest upon mine, in time I could no longer tell whose pounding heart was whose. Our hearts beginning to beat in rhythm with each other as we shared our presence as the only comfort we could offer to still one another’s aching. And it gave me a profound feeling of love, as though literally my heart was no longer just my own.
It was a night I came to know deeply the love of God.
Not only the love of God for me and my son. But the realization of how God’s heart beats with ours and becomes inseparable, indistinguishable. There is no place that God is not. There is no life that God is not an integral part of. Our very being emerges from the center of who God is — the “womb” of love, of mercy. And nothing we do can separate us from that life-giving love, which continues to nurture and care for us.
Through the Incarnation, our Mother-God sent her son into our reality, allowing God’s heart to walk around outside of the divine realm. Human and Divine now inseparable. God our Mother’s heart beating in one with our world, holding and loving humanity through even the longest, darkest nights.
And it is this reality that helps me understand this year of Mercy in a powerful way. Because God’s love is not only for me and my child, but for every mother and every mother’s child. God calls me, through the mercy extended to me and my family, to open my heart to others. I am being asked to love not only those closest to me, but all those whom I encounter. To remember the ways in which we all at one time or another ache, all need comfort, all love so deeply it hurts and need that love extended to us. God asks us to allow our hearts to beat inseparably from those of others, seeing our joys and challenges as indistinguishable from our brothers and sisters.
This is what it means to me to think of God’s love as like that of a mother — that our heart, likes God’s, is no longer just our own.
In this Year of Mercy, may our presence in our parishes, communities and world — our heart beating for others — be the comfort that stills one another’s aching, as God’s loving presence does for us.
Kateri Mancini is coordinator of mission education for the St. Cloud Mission Office.