Practically no parent today would name a newborn son "Judas." That name has become synonymous with treachery and betrayal. Although a respected name at one time, the name "Judas" is remembered primarily as the Disciple who betrayed Jesus with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane for thirty pieces of silver. In spite of this, or perhaps because of this, Judas Iscariot is a character of intense interest to people today. More than any of the other Disciples, Judas has gotten the attention of writers, theologians, poets, playwrights, dramatists, lecturers and ministers. The morality plays and folk stories capitalize on Judas, not the other Disciples.
One evening when I was conducting a mid-week study series during the Lenten season I referred to Judas in an off-hand manner as an unimportant example. Much to my surprise, during the question and answer period the questions primarily focused on Judas rather than the main topic for that evening. But what I experienced that evening is fairly typical of life today, isn't it? I am referring to our attention to, and participation in, the unsavory and ugly and harmful things of everyday life.
Take the lead stories in many newspaper, magazines and radio and television newscasts: they focus on murders, rapes, arrests, police chases, automobile accidents, fires, hurricanes, domestic violence, political scandals, racial slurs, botched criminal executions and on and on the list of the worst things of life goes. What gets more attention at checkout counters of grocery stories than the headlines of the gossip periodicals? It used to be taught in journalism schools that "if it bleeds, it leads" (it may still be). For some reason, we humans like focusing on the dark and unholy aspects of life.
But you question, "Why would you call attention to all of this on Mother's Day weekend?"
The answer: more than anything else, the average mother is concerned about the health, welfare and safety of her children. She looks around and sees the bad and the unethical in today's world that her children and husband are faced with daily and worries that the headlines in newspapers of wrong-doing, crime, arrests and deaths may someday be about her own good son or daughter or husband who's not been able to withstand the temptations of today's fast times. In some instances she's seen her family literally come apart as the family has been adversely affected by evil in the world. And, if her family has not already been torn apart by evil, she fears that it will be, and she wants to do something about all of this before it happens to her family. She wants to change the evil in the world; she wants things to be right instead of wrong, to be good instead of evil.
Today's mothers are tough-minded women of action, and they want those who love them to be people who do something about the Judases of the world. If we want to honor our mothers -- those living and those who are no longer with us -- we need to join forces in making the wrongs of life right. Instead of saying all kinds of flowery things about our mothers, sending them cards and spending money on flowers, most mothers would rather that we devote our time, energy and resources to making life in this world safer, more wholesome and more nurturing for our mothers and their family members.
In preparing this column, I interviewed a number of mothers of all ages -- women I pulled aside at random at a coffee shop, a grocery store and a public library -- asking how they believed Mother's Day should be observed. Without exception, everyone I talked with thought that Mother's Day had become too commercial, and they totally liked the idea of using the remembrance of Judas as a call to action to do something to eliminate today's fascination with the evil and unsavory of life.
The mothers I talked with, those who had young children at home and those who were older and whose children now have families of their own, said they would like to get into the fray, that they did not expect everyone else to carry the torch for them. They would like to join others in doing their share in trying to change the current focus on the ugly and destructive forces of life.
Some mothers pointed out to me that they had full-time positions, yet they were able to get their children ready for school or daycare every morning and to take care of their family's needs in the evening. I was reminded by some that there are mothers who hold political office, do extra work in the community or their church or their neighborhood. I was told not to underestimate the stamina, intelligence and vision of today's mothers. The message I got time again is that "we mothers of today are just as tough as the mothers who went to work in the war plants during World War II."
I also talked with some fathers. They tended to be more traditional in the way they believe Mother's Day should be celebrated. They realize how hard mothers work to take care of their families, and these men want to reward their mothers and the mothers of their own children by doing something especially nice for them, even if it means being extravagant and engaging in some commercialism. But this weekend is not about what fathers want. We can deal with them another time, perhaps on Father's Day. This weekend is all about showing love and respect for mothers. Let's do it their way -- a little less glamour and more far-reaching, positive action!