Mary Stands At the Foot of Our Crosses
Before we can find Mary at the foot of our crosses, yours and mine, we have to start with Mary standing at the foot of “the” Cross, her son’s cross.
Mary wasn’t just standing at foot of Jesus’ cross. It was her son’s cross.
That raises four questions.
• How did Mary feel at foot of her SON’s cross?
• What did she want to do?
• What did she do?
• What does that tell us about her standing at the foot of our crosses?
1. How did Mary feel at foot of her SON’s cross?
At some level we all know that “Mother’s know.”
They just know.
I remember times when I was crying when I came home from school. My mother looked at me and I knew she knew.. and it felt better. Everything was going to be alright… eventually! (Of course, at other times when I was hiding something, she looked at me and I knew she knew… It didn’t matter how. She knew.)
I remember times later in life when I called determined to mask something. She knew from my first words, even over the phone, that I was hiding something.
Whether it is a tone of voice, eye-contact, or an instinct – mothers often just know!
There is research to back it up. When a baby looks into its mother’s eyes both their brain waves change. We don’t need research to know that the most comforting place for a crying baby is in its mother’s arms.
We think we know what Jesus suffered. But we can’t know Jesus suffering the way Mary knew it. We will never know that suffering the way Mary knew it.
She experienced all of the horrendous pains of her son as only a mother could. Remember that the greatest suffering in the world is not our own suffering. The greatest suffering is watching someone you love suffer. Mothers feel that especially keenly.
So for Mary
• the drops of blood
• the pain of the crown of thorns
• the falls under the weight of the cross
• the nails riveting him to the cross
…each of these pains was hers in a way we can never know because they were her son’s!
Each of these pains also ripped the scab from pains that had gone before
• The whispers at her pregnancy
• The fear for her new born as they fled persecution and death
• The daily struggle to feed, clothe and nurture him.
• The anxiety and guilt when she couldn’t find her son in the caravan.
Where was he?
• What was it like the day he moved out and the house was empty?
• What was his mission? She had ideas about what it would be. But what was it going to involve?
So many things she had already pondered in her heart.
So many swords that had already pierced her heart… and now this!
As with all mothers, there was a part of her that felt she ought to hold the key to her child’s future. But, as all mothers learn, they can not protect their children from all pain.
2. What did Mary want to do as she stood there?
As she stood there did she want to
• Scream? Her whole body ached with his pain.
• Turn away? She could not.
• Take him down from that cross and bind his words?
No doubt there was so much she wanted to do.
3. What did Mary do at the foot of the cross?
She stood there – she showed up.
She was there when most of the men, the crowd he hung with, his disciples, ran away.
She knew she could not stop what was happening.
How could there be any meaning in all this?
She stood there with meaningless, hopelessness reaching out trying to overwhelm her.
All she could do was be there.
But she also looked into his eyes as only a mother can.
She saw something of the depths of his pain.
She was there with him and he knew it. He only spoke a few words but their eyes said so much.
She saw what he was feeling … not just the physical pain, but the rejection, rejection not only of him, but the one who sent him.
She trusted that it would be all right in the end. (But remember, she was not yet assumed into heaven where she sees and know more!)
She deeply believed the Magnificat she sang at his Annunciation but the words must have seemed hollow at that moment.
He has shown might with his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.
In the past she had sometimes been able to change things … think about Cana and the water jugs.
But this time, at the foot of the Cross, all she could do was trust that this would all make sense somehow… someday.
How could she trust her God who had already asked so much of her?
God comforts us as a mother comforts her son Isaiah says – but (a big but) he didn’t say when or how.
4. Mary stands at the foot of our crosses
We glibly say we are the body of Christ. If we are, then Mary sees us her children today…
- Losing a job, or being defrauded wages
- Fleeing their homelands
- Being helpless to take care of those you love in their pain
- Being invisible to those you love
- Watching one you love waste away from disease or drugs
- The list goes on with the sufferings only you know
What do we want Mary to do?
Take the pain away, make all better, isn’t that what mother’s do?
We only think of her at Cana when she was able to bring about change.
She wants that too!
But there are some things that even a mother can not do.
What does Mary do?
Mary is there – she knows!
She does what all mother’s do even when they can’t make it all right then and there. She believes.
She believes it is going to be alright… but not necessarily the way we think… or on our schedule.
She is our model in believing.
A new way of looking at the Pieta
Now I ask you close your eyes for a moment and let Mary hold you as she held the body of her son. Draw strength from her trust that in the long run everything will be all right.
In times of pain I suggest that you place yourself in any of images – here, in your home or even just in your mind’s eye.
Let Mary hold you and your hurts.
Mothers know, they just know and they are with us!