I have some Mother’s Day advice for the adult male. That is as far as I will go. Maybe it is different for women. My advice is to call your mother a lot—daily if you can—after you move away from home. You owe it to the woman who gave life to you. Remember, not calling tortures your mother. Mothers imagine the worst, worse than you can imagine, when you do not call them.
Here is a second piece of advice: Do not call your mother when you are upset. She will hear it in your voice. Believe me, even great actors like Lawrence Olivier and Keanu Reeves cannot hide a worried voice from a mom. No one can.
What does it mean to recognize the voice of Jesus? It starts with our ability to recognize the difference between good and evil.
When men worry, we retreat inside ourselves. We’ll be back when the problem is solved. Almost as a rule, we do not talk to women when we are worried. This is because most all of them have that mothering monitor that picks up on our problems. My mother’s intuition could be set off with only two syllables: “Hi, Mom.”
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27). Yes, the polarity has been reversed. Moms know our voices; Jesus says that we know his. Yet in both cases, there is a deep symbiosis, a sure sympathy.
What does it mean to recognize the voice of Jesus? It starts with our ability to recognize the difference between good and evil. All human beings do. Yes, we can disagree profoundly about what is good and what is evil, but no one ever tries to claim that they have never encountered anything in life that could be called good or evil. Our perceptions may grow and even change, but we never stop perceiving things to be good or evil or some mixture of the two. Anyone who has ever been deliberately harmed, in any way, knows that both good and evil exist and are distinct.
When we do wrong, our Lord can be as relentless as any mother.
When we know that we are doing good, choosing to do the good as we understand it, the voice of Jesus will come to us, in an image drawn from St. Ignatius Loyola, “like water on a sponge.” It will find easy entrance. The responses of others will encourage us. We will feel good about ourselves, feel a sense of purposefulness. In doing the good, we will encounter hope, peace and energy. St. Ignatius says that this is because we are essentially receptive to Jesus’ voice, to his Spirit, and so we receive him as a sponge soaks up water.
In contrast, when we know that we are doing wrong, the voice of Jesus will jar. It will unsettle us. A casual comment will upset us. We will be restless, constantly trying to convince ourselves that we are simply confused, overly constrained. St. Ignatius likened this to water falling on a rock. We are not ready to listen—so the Lord needs to shout some. The Holy Spirit disturbs us, unsettles us, in order to turn us about.
Of course, most of us, most of the time, are a mixture of good and evil. We do good in some areas of our lives and do real wrong in others. The ability to discern good from evil is part of our likeness to God. We have only to look at various parts of our lives to sense which is dominant. And then we must listen.
If we are doing the good, the voice of Jesus will find countless ways to console, confirm and encourage us. When we do wrong, our Lord can be as relentless as any mother. Come to think of it, why do we even have two distinct words in English? “Relentless” and “mother?” They mean the same.