God planned to save the world and give us eternal life through the saving death of his Son Jesus on the Cross. Yesterday, we focused on the great event of Christ’s “exaltation” on the Cross. Today the liturgy invites us to go back to the same event and to contemplate the mystery again with the Woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, by God’s will, shared very deeply – more than anyone else – in the Passion of her Son for the salvation of the world. For this reason, she is honored as Our Lady of Sorrows.
Both Gospel passages proposed for this feast point us toward Mary’s sorrowful share in Jesus’ saving mission. When the holy man Simeon met Mary at the presentation of the Child Jesus in the temple, he prophesied that she would share very closely and deeply in the Passion of her Son. His mysterious message was planted in her Immaculate Heart and she pondered it often: “… and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” We see Simeon’s prophecy come to fulfillment in St. John’s account of the Crucifixion. Mary is standing at the foot of the Cross, watching her Son die slowly in unspeakable agony. There is no doubt that when the Sacred Heart of Jesus was pierced by a lance after he had already died, Mary felt the prophesied “sword” of sorrow pierce her own maternal heart.
Jesus’ words to her at this solemn moment, however, are not about death. Rather, he speaks about motherhood, which is intimately connected with the gift of new life. He entrusts to her a new son, the beloved disciple, signaling her new role as spiritual mother. And he tells the disciple that he is now to look upon Mary as his mother. With today’s feast, Jesus says to all of us, “Behold, your mother.” He teaches us that Mary is the spiritual mother of everyone who receives the new life that he gives from the Cross. Jesus addresses Mary not with the word we would expect, “Mother,” but with the unusual title, “Woman.” In doing this, he is naming her as the “New Eve,” the new “mother of all the living” (cf. Gen 3:20).
Today we stand with our Mother Mary at the foot of the Cross. We ponder what she ponders. She teaches us that the whole Christian life should be in one way or another a participation in the life of Christ, in his Passion and Death, so as to share in his glory. She who became our mother when we were baptized into the death of her Son is nurturing us with tender, maternal care, so that we mature in the way of his life.
St. Paul explains in today’s second reading that though we are all different and have received different gifts, we nevertheless all form the one Body of Christ. This means that no matter what our circumstances might be, we can all share in the one risen life by the power of the one Spirit who dwells in us. Not everyone is designated to do “mighty deeds” or to have “gifts of healing.” But all of us who are baptized can share fully in the life of Christ, which is a life of sacrificial love. We are all called to carry our cross, to share in the Passion of Christ, to stand at the cross of others who are suffering, to receive life and to share it with others. The treasures of this life are given to us most fully when we participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, where Christ renews his Passion and enriches our own sacrifices with the merits of his Passion.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, the first and the perfect disciple of her Son, shows us how to follow him and nurtures his life in us. With her maternal help, we can unite our lives ever more fully with the Passion of her Son, in union with her, for the glory of God and for the salvation of souls.
Do I allow Mary to show me how to follow her Son and to nurture his life in me? Am I able to empathize with the sorrows of others? Do I humbly ask Mary to be my model in pondering “all these things in her heart”?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 16, no. 7. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.