"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

A Mother's Joy (John 16:20-23)

mother's joy, the apex of which like that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, could only be that time when the mother has finally given birth to her son or daughter. It is every mother's joy to behold through her own eyes the babe that she carried for nine months in her womb. It is like waking up to see that all those countless dreams of seeing, holding, caressing her newborn child, hearing it cry have now become her own reality.

The greatest joy of every mother is also the greatest risk on their own lives, both for the mother and the infant. There are still-born infants that often do not see the light of day and mothers who also die in their very act of giving birth. It is one of the main causes of death among mothers. Ever since mothers started giving birth on this earth, it has been a risky endeavor and, without doubt, the first saintly act a human being is capable of doing. This is a reminder especially for men like me that part of the essence of a mother is the basic and yet the saintly act of giving me birth.

In July 2017, Pope Francis approved a fourth pathway to possible sainthood—giving one's life in a heroic act of loving service to others. The new apostolic letter, given in the form "motu proprio" (on his own initiative) went into effect the same day of its publication on 11 July 2017, with the title "Maiorem hac dilectionem," (Latin for 'Greater love than this') from John 15:13—"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, said, the addition is meant "to promote heroic Christian testimony, (which has been) up to now without a specific process, precisely because it did not completely fit within the case of martyrdom or heroic virtues." Extensive input, discussion, and in-depth study of experts were carried out, since its proposal in 2014, in the spirit of enrichment rather than alteration. Bartolucci wrote about the addition as "new horizons and opportunities for the edification of the people of God, who, in their saints, see the face of Christ, the presence of God in history and the exemplary implementation of the Gospel."

The new set of norms opens the door to candidates being considered for sainthood because of the heroic way they freely risked their lives and died prematurely because of "an extreme act of charity," this includes heroic acts during childbirth or child-rearing. The metaphor of the pains of child-birth is an often repeated metaphor in the bible since the time of the prophets until the New Testament. The joy of the mother is not at her own relief from pain. No. We have a phrase "to have a bun in the oven." Since the 17th century, the word “oven” has been used to refer to a mother's womb. With this, people then came to refer to the baby in the womb as the bun in the oven. A mother's task is not an easy one. But no one will take your joy away from you, even if you become like a mother who will go through the burning heat of the oven. A baker when baking a bun in the oven, thinks that the bun keeps rising as it bakes. That is the mother's joy in the life of another. There is nothing selfish about it – every mother knows that there is a lot more sacrifice to come. But it is the joy of a generous love. Let me end with an excerpt from St Peter Chrysologus.

“He is The Bread sown in the virgin,
leavened in the Flesh,
molded in His Passion,
baked in the furnace of the Sepulchre,
placed in the Churches
and set upon the Altars,
which daily supplies Heavenly Food to the faithful.”

Fr JM Manzano SJ