“Beloved, we are God’s children now…” When we hear these words proclaimed just two weeks before Mother’s Day we might want to take a minute to think about how they can reflect God as mother as well as father. Of course we understand that God has no gender. On the contrary, the writer of Genesis tells us that we are all, male and female, created in God’s image. But while Jesus often referred to God as “Father,” he also sometimes used feminine imagery to describe what God is like (consider the woman and the lost coin or the mother hen). So perhaps it’s not too great a stretch of the imagination for us to consider God as “mother.”
For example, on the cross, Jesus’ body was broken and blood poured out so that we might have life. Couldn’t this also be said about a woman in childbirth? When John tells us to “… see what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God,” couldn’t his words also be used to describe a mother? “See what love she has in her willingness to share her body with her child for nine months so that her baby might have life as a child of God.”
Another example, try substituting the word “mother” for the word “shepherd” in John’s Gospel. “I am the good [mother]. A good [mother] lays down [her] life for [her child]. A hired worker, who is not a [mother] and whose [children] are not [her] own, sees [danger] coming and leaves the [children] and runs away …” Who among us has not witnessed this kind of love?
“I am the good [mother], and I know mine and mine know me…and I will lay down my life for [my child].” At our birth our own mother laid down her life for us. Jesus uses the image of “shepherd” to tell us what kind of love our God has for us, but many of us have never even met a shepherd. Perhaps, if he were telling the story today, Jesus might use the image of a mother … A happy, early Mother’s Day!
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.