A Mother is Higher than All Priests
The following homily was preached by Father Chinnappan Amalraj S.J, of Myanmar, at his mother's funeral in 2010. Note: The photo is of a priest and his mother, but not Fr. Amalraj.
It is so difficult to preach a sermon by a son about his mother. Today that task is on me.
I see my mother from the altar, for the last time. She went into a coma before I arrived from Burma. But I always believe mothers hear with their hearts. I believe that she still hears her son's words. Many times, she waited for us to return home.
Now she goes to her final home.
I see her from the altar.
There are 30 priests and a bishop on the altar. My mother is mother of two priests - my brother and me. But as I look at her shrunken body, I am suddenly filled with the realization that this fragile, small woman is a better priest than any one of us on this altar.
Though not ordained, every mother is a precious priest.
Every day, every priest takes the bread and says those poignant words during one of the most mysterious moments in the Mass: TAKE AND EAT. THIS IS MY BODY. I have said these words countless times - ranging from great altars of the Vatican to rickety altars of IDP camps in Sri Lanka, Africa. These words cause me no pain. My body is never broken. I am ashamed often that people pay me to say these words.
But I look at my mother.
She has not articulated these words. But through her life, she had broken her body. Every woman who chooses to be a mother says these words to the life that is inside her: Take. This is my body.
My mother had eight children. Eight times, at the extreme risk of losing her life, like thousands of women who risk to be mothers, my mother said to each one of her children: Take. This is my body.
St Paul says that a woman goes to the cliff of death before bringing life. Every time, precariously hanging between death and life, my mother broke her body and brought life out.
Her body was the altar. She broke the bread of life to each one of us. Her Eucharist was her child who had been soaked in blood which she shed in sheer selflessness.
Every Mass as a priest, I take the chalice of wine and say: TAKE AND DRINK. This is my Blood, shed for you.
I shed no drop of blood. No pain. Shamelessly, I sometimes get paid for these words.
The fragile woman, my mother, is now in peace in the coffin. In her life time, not once but eight times, she experienced these words. She has shared her blood. I owe her blood debt. The blood in me was not shared with my father. It was shared with the blood of this woman, who never once reminded me of her sacrifice. Once, during one of those deliveries, people told us that mother "lost all blood" and the situation was very dangerous. She survived. She went on to have two more babies.
Today I am ashamed of my life. Breaking the bread and sharing the chalice is my daily routine. For this woman, it was life and death. Finally, today she has embraced her death, after surviving eight times, kissing the door of death.
Let her rest in peace.
My theology is weak.
I am not sure that priests, bishops and all church officials will directly go to heaven. But one thing I believe in my personal theology. I like to think that ALL MOTHERS GO DIRECTLY to heaven. Because God cannot be everywhere, so he created mothers, says Poet Tagore. Mothers cooperate in creating and ensuring life.
I know we are to pray for those who have died, that their souls will move quickly through Purgatory and come to the fullness of eternal life. But today I do not pray FOR my mother. I think I should pray TO my mother and ask her to continue to intercede with God for me as she has done all my life. We lesser mortals, I think, should be praying TO our deceased mothers who loved us and sacrificed for us. I think that they must be with God.
Growing up was challenge to all of us. We were not model children, many times. But, Mother, I know you still have no complaints because you are our mother.
All your sons and your only daughter have only one thought: Mother, you are our high priest who sacrificed yourself for us and who intercedes for us still
Thank you and farewell.