Given at the live-streamed Mass for Mothers Prayers in Westminster Cathedral on 14th November 2020
‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’
These words, which we have just heard, lie at the heart of the inspiration of the movement of ‘Mothers Prayers’. Those who started this movement, Veronica and Sandra, have always drawn strength from this comforting promise of our Blessed Lord. Today, as we thank God for the 25 years of Mothers Prayers, we thank them, and all who sustain this movement, for their trust in the Lord, their readiness to follow the first promptings they received, and their perseverance in bringing this gift to so many mothers all around the world.
A mother’s prayers for her children are so important.
As we celebrate this Holy Mass, my mind is full of images of groups of mothers gathering to pray for their children, to support and encourage each other in the difficult moments of motherhood, and including in their prayers those who feel their mother is lost to them. These groups take place is so many different settings. But the prayer takes a similar shape and pattern. In essence, each mother brings her child or children and places them in the care of God. This may be in times of deep distress, or of pain, of loss, or of joy and thanksgiving. Time and again there are accounts given of prayer being answered: children coming off drugs; children returning home; improvements in health and relationships. A mother’s prayer can be very powerful indeed.
For me, Mothers Prayers points to two great truths and gifts of our faith.
The first was expressed in the reading from Isaiah. It is the truth of God’s unswerving love and mercy for us his people. Remember the words: ‘Truly they are my people, sons (and daughters) and no rogues.... In his love and pity he redeemed them himself, he lifted them up, carried them, throughout days of old’ (Isaiah 63:8-9).
Yes, this love of God comes to us from the very beginning. The testimony of each of the prophets speaks so eloquently of this unshakable love.
Hosea says: ‘I myself taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in my arms...I lead them with reins of kindness’ (Hosea 11:3-4). What mother does not understand these words?
Jeremiah says: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love... for Ephraim is my first born’ (Jeremiah 31:2,9).
And Isaiah declares: ‘For the mountains may depart, the hills be shaken, but my love for you will never leave you and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken’ (Isaiah 54:10).
This outpouring of love comes to its fulfilment, its most vivid expression among us, in the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him all the prophetic writings of this undying love of God take on our flesh. In Jesus this love comes to make its home in the fabric of our own lives.
This sharing of flesh is so well understood by a mother. I remember my mother being in distress at events in my brother’s life. I tried to console her by saying that he was responsible now for his own decisions. She looked at me pleadingly: ‘But you don’t understand,’ she said, ‘he is always my son, he is always my flesh and blood.’ The pain and distress of my brother’s life were also lodged in the heart of his mother. These words of a mother are one with the message of the prophets, one with the message of Jesus for he, too, says to us that he is our flesh and blood. And in him our prayers are answered, our searching resolved and the door is opened. In him do we find peace and rest for our souls.
Mothers Prayers teaches us to do this. Mothers Prayers is a school of prayer and a pathway of peace for so many.
The second gift of faith is this.
Jesus knew the importance of a mother. He also knew the waywardness and frailty of our nature. So, in one of the final acts of his life in the flesh, he gave us all a Mother. From the cross of his death, he said to John and to us all: ‘This is your mother’ (John 19:26).
So there is a deeper meaning still to the phrase ‘a mother’s prayers’. It can refer, beautifully, to the constant prayer of Our Blessed Lady for us, for us in every need and dark night, and they come often.
There is a lovely silly story that tells of Jesus looking round heaven and seeing some rough and unruly people there. So he turns to Peter and demands: ‘How did they get in?’. Peter replied ‘Oh, they got in through the back door.’ ‘The back door’, retorts Jesus. ‘And who’s in charge of the back door, then?’ Peter replies: ‘Well now, it’s your mother!’
We do well to turn to Mary in all our prayers. She knows the way to our Saviour’s heart and can open any door, untie any knot. Her prayers are the supreme Mother’s Prayers and we beseech her today, and every day, to add her prayers to those of every mother, every family, gathered these wonderful groups.
May this movement flourish in years to come, for through it, with perseverance and patience, so many will learn the profound truth of the Gospel, in which we rejoice today: ‘For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him.’
Archbishop of Westminster