There have been many stories on the news lately about mothers who have lost children to violent crime, illness, suicide, and accidents. Whenever I listen to these mothers, I wonder: how would I handle a similar situation? Could I hold up under all the grief and guilt? Could I survive the death of my child? I'm not sure that I could. After my brother died of cancer, my mother was so consumed with grief, she died four years later. She simply could not live with it.
Our Mother, the Blessed Virgin, was very human, in spite of all the blessings showered down on her by God. She experienced a wonderful miracle - bearing God's Son - and fully accepted all responsibilities and consequences that came with it. From the very beginning of her agreement with God, she was beset with hardship, ostracization, criticism, worry, sorrow, and deep emotional pain. She experienced stress, physical pain, the loss of her husband, and old age - just like the rest of us.
She also experienced some of the most horrific experiences that anyone can experience. As a Jewess, Mary lived under Roman oppression and rule. She saw first-hand how the Jewish people suffered. She was given in marriage to a man that was chosen for her by her family, according to Jewish custom. When Mary agreed to bear the Son of God, she was jeopardizing everything in her life, including her family and her husband. She was risking her very life, as she could have been stoned as an adulteress.
But Mary's faith in God was greater than her fear of retribution and death. She trusted in God to take care of her and her child. Joseph proved to be a tender, loving, and loyal husband. He was the perfect stepfather for Mary's child. Nonetheless, Simeon warned Mary that "a sword of sorrow will pierce your soul" when Jesus was presented in the Temple, and the Holy Family was forced to flee to Egypt to escape King Herod's death threat.
As a mother, Mary felt all the worry and anxiety that mothers feel when their children fall ill, get injured, or become lost. Imagine her anxiety when Jesus embarked on his great ministry. He traveled long distances, and so many things could have gone wrong! Now, put yourself in Mary's shoes during Jesus' arrest and trial. How she must have suffered at the falling of each lash across his back! How she must have wept over every cut, bruise, and drop of blood!
What was Mary thinking as she watched her only son carry the cross through the streets of Jerusalem? Was she praying for a miracle to save him - or was she trusting in God's plan? How much heartache and mental anguish did she feel in those moments? We can only imagine.
When Jesus was nailed to the cross, did she feel every strike of the hammer? Did she cry out in pain? The reality of his death must have struck her then. There was no going back.
I don't know if I could watch my child suffer in such pain and agony without striking out at the guards and the people who cheered on his death. I don't know if I could experience such pain and anguish without falling completely apart. I don't know if I could watch my only child die in such a horrific manner without dying myself.
Yet, Mary stood at the foot of the cross with courage and strength. She trusted in God's essential goodness and love. And when Jesus' body was taken down, she caressed him like a loving mother and buried him in the tomb with the promise that God would take care of him.
What joy Mary must have felt on the day of her son's resurrection!
Not only did God keep his promise to Mary, but He kept His promise to the whole world. Mary was renewed with new strength and courage - and so must we be. We must trust that no matter what happens, God's plan is in place, and He will take care of us and our loved ones. And we will be reunited in a better place.
July 16, 2022
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