Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. Romans 16:13 NIV
In most of Paul’s letters in the New Testament he closes with a personal greeting to a variety of people to those he knows in the church to which he is writing. The longest one is in the book of Romans. It goes on for 27 verses and includes greetings to unfamiliar and foreign-sounding names such as Ampliatus, Aristobulus, and Epenetus. Tucked in the middle of these greetings is a special greeting to Rufus. And not only to Rufus, but to his mother, “who has been a mother to me, too.”
We don’t know much about Paul’s mother, for he never mentions her in his writings, for some unexplained reason. Yet here he does have a special relationship with this mother of Rufus. Why would Paul take time out to specifically mention her?
Mother’s Day is a day where we take time to celebrate and honor our mothers. It is a day to indulge, pay tribute, and pamper our mothers with gifts, a family meal, and a special time with them. Yet, for others, it is a bittersweet day—for those who do not have children and so dearly want them, for those who no longer have their mother, and for mothers who have lost children. And there are those whose relationship with their own mother can only be described as strained. All these emotions and sentiments can be wrapped into this day, making it a joyful day or a heartbreaking day. Yet Paul’s mention of Rufus’ mother can make us realize that this thing called motherhood has a whole lot more to do than just biology. Maybe there is a whole lot more to motherhood than genetics.
What did Rufus’ mother do for Paul for him to say that she has been a mother to him? Was it a gift of encouragement, was she someone who prayed for him, comforted him in time of trials, listened to him, inspired him, cherished and loved him as her own son? Someone who accepted him and believed in him when no one else would? All of these things are qualities of a good mother.
My own mother was that for me. Mother’s Day is bittersweet for me, for my mother died three days before Mother’s Day in 2019. I had already bought flowers for her to have sent to her home and had to hurriedly call the florist to cancel the order.
Yet there were others that I would describe as being like a mother to me. They had those motherly traits that made me feel loved, accepted and supported. I remember as a child going to church and being surrounded by women who were like that. That is why I always felt comfortable, safe in the church, and felt at home, because I was surrounded by “mothers.” My Sunday school teacher Mrs. Turpen who was one of the first that opened my eyes to the wonder of Scripture. Miss Zelma, who never had children of her own, but treated all the children in the church so caringly and lovingly. Those who taught me about Christ and showed me the love of Christ through their example.
This is what God has embodied in this gift of motherhood that we honor this Sunday. Whether it is from a biological mother, or one like a mother, the love of a mother is a Godly love. For as Isaiah 66:13 says, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you …” The gift of motherhood is something worth celebrating and honoring—for it is a gift that comes from God.