“Who is my mother?”

who-is-my-motherOne of my children’s favorite books is a Dr. Seuss classic, Are You My Mother?  The little bird pops out of his shell moments after his mother goes off in search of a tasty worm to feed her baby, and sets off on an arduous journey to find his mother: dog, cow, plane, and finally “SNORT.”

Ironically, it the creature most unlike the bird that gets the baby back to the nest, where he is reunited with the mother bird where (presumably) a happy ending was had by all.

The thing is, a mother is not a machine. The bond she forms with her child (and her child with her) over the course of his life is a permanent one. This is as true for adoptive mothers as it is for birth/natural mothers. Whether formed through biology or adoption, the mother-child bond is natural, designed by God in the formation of the family — a temporal, visible image of Trinitarian love. 

Critics of adoption tend to focus on the pain and damage that results when the biological bond is severed; any suggestion that the love of the adoptive parents could ever begin to fill the resulting emotional void is branded “naive” or “ignorant.”  However, in this Gospel reading we are called to consider the possibility that there is a bond even higher and more permanent than simple biology.

 Here … read it for yourself, from the third chapter of Mark. 

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house.
Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him.
A crowd seated around him told him,
“Your mother and your brothers and your sisters
are outside asking for you.”
But he said to them in reply,
“Who are my mother and my brothers?”
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother.”

At first glance, Jesus’ response to His mother is rather puzzling (given the deep affection He had for the Blessed Mother). Imagine how Mary must have felt to have traveled all that way, only to be pointedly, publicly ignored. 

Mary’s actual response is not recorded, but we know that from the first moment she discovered she was to be the mother of the Lord, she dedicated her life — just as her parents had dedicated her when she was young — to wholehearted service to the Almighty. No reservation. No hesitation. No expectation of reward or recognition. 

Only this posture of humble service could have kept her from being crushed, only the deep-rooted knowledge that she was united with Christ on a far deeper level than mere biology. She had shared, and continued to share, in the eternal purpose for which He had been sent.

This sense of higher calling is something adoptive moms can take to heart. In the Incarnation, God reached out to the human race and elevated us as His sons and daughters by adoption (Galatians 4:1-5). Consequently, Jesus recognized that this divine (adoptive) connection to Mary superceded even their biological tie.

Yes, the bond of adoption is a powerful one, based on the same kind of procreative love that forms a biological connection, as Pope John Paul II pointed out in his Letter to Adoptive Families. He wrote:

Procreative love is first and foremost a gift of self. There is a form of ‘procreation’ which occurs through acceptance, concern and devotion. The resulting relationship is so intimate and enduring that it is in no way inferior to one based on a biological connection.

And so, we need not fear the biological bond our children have with their first/birth parents. We need not apologize for anticipating that the bond we have with our children will continue throughout their lives, continuing from child to grandchild and beyond. And we need not concern ourselves with those determined to portray themselves as victims; these individuals are not more authoritative or “informed” members of the adoption triad. 

On the contrary … these individuals have yet to learn that lasting peace cannot be attained through natural means. The “primal wound” is by nature spiritual, not genetic. Supernatural intervention is required.

Each of us — no matter what the source of our pain, our emptiness, our loss — will find healing and wholeness when we allow ourselves to experience the love of God. Only then can we find the strength to forgive, and receive the grace to heal. Only then can we achieve the necessary level of detachment to negotiate human relationships without becoming ensnared by them.

This is not an easy path, nor a widely traveled one. In our secular culture, the suggestion that God takes a personal interest in the most intimate details of our lives, or that forgiveness (and not “justice”) is the only sure pathway to peace, is likely to bring snorts of derision.  This is also something the Lord predicted in the Gospel of Matthew (7:13-14):

“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many enter through it; but the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”

Our mothers chose life for us at the beginning of our lives. We must make that same choice for ourselves again and again. We must choose to see ourselves as  beloved children of God, and choose to build on that central relationship throughout our lives. Only then can we be truly happy.

God bless you!

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