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Mothering Sunday - A Day For Mums, God and Cake

The Archbishop of Canterbury and The Archbishop of York

Sunday 18th March 2012

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, today writes a column for The Sun on Sunday celebrating Mothering Sunday. His column follows...

Mothering Sunday - A Day for Mums, God and Cake

Hello again. Happy Mothering Sunday!

Yes - in the midst of the self-denying period of Lent on this fourth Sunday we have a festival to enjoy.  

I’m sure the Sun on Sunday is celebrating Mothering Sunday, or Mothers’ Day as it is now called.  And I’m sure that very many of you will have sent a card or a gift to your mum, or will be planning to visit them today. Did you forget? Whoops!

Do you know where this festival came from? It isn’t just something dreamt up by card manufacturers.  It has been celebrated for hundreds of years – first, to honour Mary the Mother of Jesus, then for people to revisit their Mother church, where they were baptised. And it also became a day’s holiday for young girls who were working away from home in service, to return to their family and enjoy the love and comfort of home.

It seems appropriate that this festival falls in the season of Lent when we think of God’s love and self-sacrifice – because that’s what all good mothers are like too: self-giving, accepting, forgiving.  My own mother (who had 13 children) had a notice over her kitchen sink which said, “Divine service offered here three times a day.”  

In churches around the country today we will be hearing stories from the Bible about the courage and self-sacrifice of mothers who were willing to give everything for their children.  Moses’s mother who gave her baby away to keep him from being killed by Pharaoh’s soldiers; Hannah who dedicated her little boy Samuel to serve God, and became a great prophet; Mary, Christ’s mother, who loved him and wept as she watched him die.  A mother never stops being a mother, however old her children might be.

One of God’s first commandments to the freed slaves was, ‘Honour your father and mother so that you live a long time in the land that God gives you.’

I don’t think God was worried that if the children were too annoying, they wouldn’t last long! No - We need to honour our parents for the love and the values which they teach us, so that we will grow up knowing how to live together and make a strong community.

So we need to celebrate today, for our mums, but also for the fact that we are given a family to support and love us.

And because it’s a festival, we may have cake. The traditional cake for today is Simnel Cake, a rich fruit cake full of good things, and topped with marzipan – with 12 little marzipan balls, representing the 12 Apostles.  My favourite version also has a layer of marzipan hidden in the middle and cooked with the cake – a soft sweet centre, holding everything together – like our mums.

Refreshment and Deprivation

Speaking of cake, Mothering Sunday was also known as Refreshment Sunday. A time in the middle of our fasting, prayer and deeds of Charity, when we can draw nourishment, gather our strength and renew our energy, determination and hope for the final weeks before Easter.

Unfortunately, there are so many children in the world who have neither mothers nor food. They are starving and lonely. These are children in countries like the Niger, Chad, Somalia, Zimbabwe. So many places where there is famine, or war, or both.

The tragedy is that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "There is enough for everybody's need, not for everybody's greed." Sadly, in our world, the rich person looks for an appetite while the poor person looks for food.

This is my call to the readers of the Sun on Sunday. Why don't we together start a campaign of ‘Yes’ for Refreshment, and ‘No’ to Deprivation. ‘Yes’ to Fairness, and ‘No’ to Injustice.

Mugabe and the White African - Why We Have A Duty To Stand Up To Tyrants

There is a very famous statement made by Edmund Burke, which says,
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Edmund Burke, the Irish political philosopher, was writing over 200 years ago. But the truth of his saying remains as powerful as ever in today’s world where so many people are oppressed by tyrants and dictators.

On Wednesday last week there was an event in London which honoured the lives of those good people who were determined to do something to stop the triumph of evil in Zimbabwe.

Robert Mugabe’s so-called "land reforms" programme was a cynical ploy to drive out white farmers from their country through violence and intimidation. Yes to Land Reforms. But who benefited from his land seizures? His family and cronies!  
Thankfully, one proud “white African” family stood up to him and charged him with human rights abuses under international law.

This was the family of Michael Campbell. Mike, with his son-in-law Ben Freeth, their family and their workers, both black and white, did everything they could to defend their farm – which they had bought from the government - both in court and on the ground. They were terrorised and beaten and the farm was completely torched and razed to the ground. It now looks like a desert. Mike died, but Ben continued the fight.

They won their court battle, but the power of the dictator has not been checked.  And guess what? Mugabe succeeded in persuading the other countries of Southern Africa to shut the Supreme Court down, and have the judges dismissed.

Good people still need to stand up and do something – wherever we see injustice and oppression. We can all do something.

Rowan, I Will Miss You

I was greatly saddened to hear this week that Dr Rowan Williams will be stepping down as Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of the year, but I am delighted he is not going to be far away.

Thankfully, by going on to pursue the teaching and writing he so dearly loves, he will continue to offer great service to the Church of England and the wider church.

Despite his courageous, tireless and holy endeavour in a particularly challenging past decade for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, he has been much maligned by some people who should have known better.

I believe we have been lucky to have had such a remarkable and gifted leader and, for me personally, our partnership in the gospel for the past six years has been the most creative of my ministry.

It has been joyful to have led missions together, gone on retreats and prayed together.

May God’s blessings continue to be showered upon him, his wife Jane, and his family.

This article first appeared in The Sun on Sunday, 18/03/2012

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