Remembering Nanay

Mark 7: 1-13
1 Kgs 8:22-23,27-30 / Ps 84

Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’
(Mark 7:10)

Who bore me in great pain to birth?
Raised me to what I have become?
To whom do I owe most my worth?
My mother, the light of our home.

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?” He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ” ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you handed down. And you do many things like that.” (Mark 7:1-13)

Reflection

Dishonoring one’s parents was considered such a grave offense in the old days that, “whoever cursed his father or mother” was meted the death penalty (Ex.21:17). The book of Sirach, chapter 3, verses 1-16 gives a long discourse on the blessings God pours on children who honor their father and mother.

I remember our mother, whose second death anniversary we are commemorating tomorrow. She lived life to the full – up to the last year of her life (85 years) she preferred to work every day, and even went ballroom dancing at night, three times a week. Each day that we saw each other at the office was always a joy for me, knowing that her mind was not only still sharp and lucid, but had retained the wit and sense of humor undiminished by the pains of age. It was not difficult to love and honor a woman who successfully raised eleven children, survived a brutal war, and by self-study, established her own business. She took pride in the professional and financial successes of her brood, and the stability of their families. All of her 36 grandchildren looked up to their generous “Nanay” as their ‘mother of perpetual help’. True to her name, Socorro, all the members of her clan knew that in times of need, she was our constant succor.

I believe the Lord had given me a special privilege of being in my mother’s company most of the time, as we shared the same office room. Serving her in every little way was already its own reward, for as St. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians, (4:20), it is in honoring and obeying our parents in everything that is pleasing to the Lord.

Lord God, You said that it is in honoring our parents that we will receive Your abundant blessings; but Your giving us loving parents was blessings enough. Thank you for the values and ideals that You gave us through the lives of our parents. Amen.

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