by Msgr. Joseph P. Calise
MOTHER’S DAY HAS a very interesting history. The idea was first proposed by Ann Jarvis who held a memorial in 1905 for her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, to pay tribute for all she had done to help the wounded on both sides of the Civil War.
Jarvis believed that the celebration should be expanded to include all mothers. So she began a mission to establish what was officially recognized as Mother’s Day by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.
From Sentiment to Profit
However, it was the same Ann Jarvis who protested the celebration in the early 1920s when companies began to print greeting cards and she perceived that the theme of the day had turned from sentiment to profit.
I am sure we have all heard people complain that many of our holidays have suffered the same fate. Chocolate bunnies are on shelves in drug stores months before Easter and Christmas decorations appear well before Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, the holidays are good and important.
Keeping a proper perspective becomes the responsibility of each of us, but it is also our responsibility to let the special people in our lives know that they are special to us. So many men and women make our lives and our world better simply by doing what they do well: mothers and fathers who cooperate in God’s act of creation and then care for their children with love; teachers who teach with genuine concern for their students; police, firefighters and military personnel who risk their personal safety for others; as well as the many people who keep our means of transportation running, our store shelves stocked and our bodies healthy.
Every day there are many unsung heroes who put their faith into action, who teach us about God’s love by simply being who they are and doing what they do. They seem somehow inspired.
In 1953, Paramount Pictures released the film, “Stalag 17.” The story, which may have been part of the inspiration for the television series “Hogan’s Heroes,” portrays life in a German prisoner of war camp. The Germans have come to suspect that one barracks had organized a program of resistance. In order to uncover the espionage, they place one of their own men in the camp as a spy.
Price, played by Peter Graves, was to gather as much information as he could and relay it through a sergeant to the Kommandant. At one point in the play, it becomes clear to the inmates that there is an informant among them and suspicions point to Sefton, played by William Holden.
Purpose Enables Endurance
The barracks lieutenant, Dunbar, played by Don Taylor, speaks to the actual spy thinking that he is an ally and asks how it could be that someone would voluntarily live under prisoner of war conditions. Speaking from his own experience, Price simply replies – purpose, he has a purpose. A man can endure any condition as long as he has a purpose.
With a purpose in life, even the events of an ordinary day can take on great significance. For so many of the unsung heroes in our day, the purpose is love. The Scriptures invite us to see our purpose in Christ’s love because accepting Christ’s love inspires action.
At the end of today’s Gospel passage, Jesus promises that those who believe in Him will not only do the works He has done, but also will do even greater things than He. History shows that the Apostles traveled to farther lands and affected a greater number of people than He and that their message – Christ’s message – is still being carried to parts of the world that they did not even know existed.
The Measure of Greatness
In this sense, the work of the Apostles planted the seeds for the Church to carry on even greater things in the world today. Faith, put into action, leads to the accomplishment of great things. However, things are measured as great not necessarily by their magnitude, but by the effect they have on others.
Each day our lives are touched by unsung heroes, and each day is the opportunity to be a hero in another’s life. Being rooted in faith and willing to put our faith into action gives our lives purpose and can inspire the next generation to do even greater works.
Readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 6: 1-7
Psalm 33: 1-2, 4-5, 18-19
1 Peter 2: 4-9
John 14: 1-12
Msgr. Calise is the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka and Transfiguration parish, Maspeth.