Shaking on his cross,
his face covered with sweat and blood,
his eyes bulging,
Jesus happens upon the figure of his loving Mother
standing at the foot of the cross.
Everyone is shouting, making accusations,
hurling insults, harnessing the condemned man.
Only Mary, silent and powerless to help,
offers comfort and support
with her presence and probably her tears.
“Come, all you who pass this way,
Look and see whether there is any suffering
like this suffering” (Lam 1:12).
It is not enough that Jesus should suffer in body and soul.
Even the most sacred affection,
the affection we feel for our mother,
is crushed under the cross.
God demands everything from Jesus,
even his mother.
And Jesus surrenders her too.
Now there are Catholic paintings
which show the Mother of Jesus as a
kind of fainting Mother of Sorrows,
but I don’t believe that;
I’ve seen too many mothers, far less perfect than Mary,
take leave of their own flesh and blood
as they sail for Vietnam or Lebanon,
as they go off to jail,
as they die of AIDS;
as they stand at an open grave,
and show strength and fortitude and even majesty.
This is not a woman who faints.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, watched redemption happening,
She did not cry out.
She is not named among the women who wept for Jesus.
We read in the Gospel only these movingly restrained words:
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother”
St. Ambrose, of the early church says:
“I read that she stood;
I read nowhere that she wept”.
Yet surely there were tears, silent or not.
She suffers because
every mother suffers doubly.
She suffers her own pain
and she suffers the pain of her child.
But, says the Song of Solomon (8: 6-7)
“Stern as death is love,
its flames like a blazing fire,
deep waters cannot quench love,
nor floods sweep it away”.
Mary’s love was stronger than death.
She now faces that moment
prophesied by old Simeon:
“You yourself shall be pierced by a sword” (Luke 2: 25)
Mary has come to be with her son.
She shares the pain imposed on him unjustly.
And we must feel with Jesus:
outraged and dishonored and seemingly disgraced,
she is probably the last person in the world
he wants to see gazing up at him
and yet the sigh of her must have brought joy
even in this mystery of iniquity
which seem to have brought him to infamous ending.
Yet she was standing there, like Mother Courage,
freely shouldering it all with Jesus,
along with a few other faithful ones,
in order to let redemption enter this world.
The Kingdom of God was taking root.
In the Catholic Church we call Mary
the Queen of the Poor of God,
and I feel she was standing there,
standing in for all the victims of injustice, oppression and violence;
In Argentina, the army in the dark of night,
would take away husbands and sons and murder them
in the name of their dictator;
and the mothers would gather in the plaza
in front of the dictators palace,
and simply stand and pray silently.
They were called the “Mothers of the Plaza”,
the mothers of the missing,
and they just stood there, day after day,
year after year,
until the government was toppled down.
That’s what Mary did.
And she was the poor young girl who said
that the powerful the rich, and the proud
would be toppled from their throne,
and the poor and the powerless would take over.
In her song of praise we call the magnificent,
she sang about a divine revolution
in which God would confuse the proud
pull down the mighty from their throne
raise the poor to high places,
give the hungry every good thing
and send the rich away empty (Luke 1: 51-53)
But this divine revolution and its hopes had its price.
Given its sinful condition of this world,
it will be effected only through the Sacrifice of
God’s Son Jesus,
and it will continue to be effect only through
Jesus whispered to Mary,
“Woman, behold your son”.
To me this is more than saying
“Mother, look after my friend John,
and John, look after my mother”.
Earlier, when someone told Jesus, as
he was speaking to the crowds, long before,
“Your mother and brothers and sisters are here”,
Jesus made a point:
“Who is my mother and my brother and my sister?
Whoever does the will of God.”
Jesus said: I’m going to turn upside down your ideas of
family and tribe and all that:
those days, they said they all belonged to
the blood of Abraham;
I belong to the blood of the Kirk family in Alabama,
people I don’t have much in common with except birth;
but Jesus tells us that
we’re now one new family, beyond tribe and race and class,
a new family in the blood of Jesus.
And your brother or sister is anyone
who does the will of the Father.
And now Mary is standing in for this
New Human Race Jesus is creating,
made one finally with the glue of the Holy Spirit.
Woman, behold your son.
Brother, behold your sister.
Sister, behold your brother.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Son of Man,
we praise you and we thank you
for saving and redeeming us;
we stand at your cross as your mother,
as your brother and sisters,
and we grieve for you
as you continue to be crucified day after day
and we say to you:
Here we are Lord,
here we stand with you,
do with us what you will.Amen
Emmanuel Church, Holy Friday, 1987