“Dear wife and mother, I thank you once more from my heart for everything that you have done for me in my lifetime, for all the sacrifices that you have borne because of me. I beg you to forgive me if I have hurt or offended you, just as I have forgiven everything …It was not possible for me to free you from the pain that you must now suffer on my account. How hard it must have been for our dear Savior when, through his suffering and death, he had to prepare such a great sorrow for his Mother, and they bore all of this out of love for us sinners. My heartfelt greetings for my dear children, I will surely beg the dear God, if I am permitted to enter heaven soon that he will set aside a little place in heaven for all of you.”
Those words must seem, on first hearing, to be sad words on this Mother’s Day and the fifth Sunday of the celebration of Easter. They are thoughts from the farewell letter that Franz Jaegerstetter, an Austrian conscientious objector, wrote to his wife, Francesca, before his execution by his Nazi captors.
They are indeed sad words, but if you listened closely you could also hear faith speaking through the sadness. “I will beg the dear God that he will set aside a little place in heaven for all of you.” Franz asks his wife to believe that they would be together again. Clearly he had in his mind and heart the farewell promise that Jesus made to Philip:
“In my Father’s house there are many rooms; I would not tell you this if it were not true. And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Love is only as strong as one’;s faith in the Source of love. Jesus, the Source of the Father’s Love for us says, “Farewell is never love’s final word. I will come back and take you to myself.” Just as Jesus had faith in the power of his Father’s love to save him from death so Jesus asked his apostles, on the night before his death, to trust in the power of his love. “Believe me, Philip, that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” Franz asked his wife and loved ones to believe in the endurance of God’s love. “God and the Blessed Virgin will surely not abandon you,” he wrote in an earlier letter, “when I can no longer protect you myself.” Those who truly love can let go. They trust that nothing born of God dies forever. They believe that all real love is in the hands of God…and, as Jesus told us, “there is no snatching out of the Father’s hands.”
Franz closed his letter to Francesca with greetings to his relatives and friends and then he wrote…
“And now your husband, son, father, son-in- law, and brother-in- law greets you once more before his final journey. The heart of Jesus, the heart of Mary and my heart are one in time and eternity.”
May we come to know the Source of Love and trust him with all our loves. May we remember as we celebrate Mother’s Day that all our loves, especially our mother’s love, is a sign and sacrament of the Father’s love. If we feel far from love this day may we remember that faith is the Way back to love, else Jesus would not have said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”