Libby Caes’ Homily, May 10, 2015

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John 15:9-17


Mother’s Day, like any other holiday we celebrate, means different things to different people. This is because we are each unique.

But, consider this!!

Each one of us began our life in the womb of our birth mother.

This is not generally what we think of when we celebrate Mother’s Day.

Face it, none of us would be here if it were not for this first dwelling place.


There are a multitude of ways that conception occurs.

But no matter how we are conceived, we all begin our journey in the environment of the womb and it’s furnishings: the placenta and umbilical cord, the amniotic sac with the amniotic fluid.

The amniotic sac is a bag of fluid inside the womb or uterus. It is where the unborn baby develops and grows.

It forms within days of conception and is the dwelling place of the fetus.

Its fluid helps the lungs to develop and allows the digestive and urinary systems to function before birth.

Amniotic fluid also keeps the baby warm, rovides lubricant between body parts so that they do not grow together. It is a liquid shock absorber.


One of my memories of pregnancy is attending the Philadelphia 4th of July fireworks on the Parkway when I was 6 ½ months pregnant in. With every boom Amy thumped hard!

I suspect this fluid does transmit sound waves!


The placenta and umbilical cord connect the fetus to the mother.

Oxygen and nutrients pass from the mother’s bloodstream to the placenta into the umbilical cord and then to the baby’s bloodstream.

But it is not a one way street; waste products travel from the fetus through the umbilical cord to be discarded by the mother. It is a busy highway.

If all is well, there is an amazing synergy between the fetus and the mother. A co-creation, if you will.


So much is shared by the two…oxygen, nutrients, antibodies, water, urine.

The quality of the mother’s life—her nutrition, her emotional and spiritual stability, and hopefully the absence of abusive substances—affects the well-being of the life she is incubating.

Perhaps the amniotic sac is a foretaste of the waters of baptism.


There have been tremendous strides in neonatal intensive care, but nothing can replicate our first home.

There is no alternative housing.

Why am I telling you all this??

This isn’t Biology 101. This is Sunday Assembly!

It is Mother’s Day; the mystery and wonder of gestation is our universal experience. The other shared experience is our death, also a mystery.


The Psalmist got it right:

For it was you who formed my inward parts, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes behold my unformed substance.

“You” is God, the Holy, the Divine, the Beloved, Love.

And we are the living physical expression of God’s love.


St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila wrote that our union with the Divine is our human nature.  We are created to be lovers of God and one another.

Our spiritual DNA is to love God, be loved by God and to love one another.

As children of God this is our birth legacy.


Today’s gospel reading:

As God has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.

Abide: dwell in, remain, stay there, make your home in my love. Live where I have already placed you. There is no other place to truly live as who I have created you to be.

Abide in my love.

If this is indeed our legacy of who we are, why do we need to be told to abide in God’s love?


There are two reasons:

First of all, we are spiritually asleep. Again and again, the gospels tell us to “wake up!”

Rather than just go through the motions of living, the mechanical person, we must be intentional in our awareness, we must become conscious in our living.

And second, we all have attachments, we all have idols that crowd out love. It is a life long journey to separate from these attachments and to fully realize love.


Today’s gospel reading all tells us:

This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.

This, too, is our spiritual DNA.


Gerald May in The Dark Night of the Soul writes:

In the spiritual life, freedom is for nothing other than love. Human beings exist because of love, and the meaning and goal of our lives is love. In Christian understanding, everything that is authentic in the spiritual life points toward the increasing fulfillment of the two great commandments: to love God and other people in a completely unfettered way.

When we realize this God given identity we experience joy.

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Think of the joy at the birth of a child.

It is contagious, it bubbles over. It is deep and heartfelt.

Perhaps this is what Jesus is thinking of.

I wonder if he was ever present at the birth of a child.

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.


Jesus did this and this is what birth mothers do.

They literally give of their lives for the fetus.

We like to think pregnancy and birth are risk free and safe.

It is definitely much safer than in the past and when good prenatal care is available.


But in many parts of the world there is still great risk.

There will always be risk in pregnancy because one life is given for another.

Most of us here are closer to our death than to our birth.

I certainly hope I am.


Let me close with one more reflection.

A baby about to born is, I suspect, quite content in his/her home.

The womb is safe and familiar, nothing is lacking.

But then there is an earthquake of the greatest magnitude, contractions!

Do you think that infant wants to go down that dark tunnel?

I don’t.

The baby doesn’t know that the love that has enveloped him/her all along  will continue to be present as it enters its new reality.


When we die, we leave this comfortable world with all its knowns.

We can trust that love holds us as we are welcomed into the home prepared for our souls.

Just as a newborn no longer needs the womb we will no longer need our physical bodies.

It is indeed a mystery.


Psalm 139:

Where can I go from your spirit?

Or, where can I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there;

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast

I close with the last stanza of the last poem of St. John of the Cross:

How gently and lovingly

you wake in my heart,

where in secret you dwell alone;

and in your sweet breathing,

filled with good and glory,

how tenderly you swell my heart with love.


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