LISTEN: CeeLo Green, "Mary, Did You Know?"
Some time ago, we saw the movie, "Son of God." As a mother, I was again disappointed at the portrayal of Mary, the mother of Jesus. I have rarely seen Mary depicted as I would like to see -- As a real mother, breaking down, crying, wailing, as she sees her son tortured, mocked and crucified. There may be theological reasons for depicting Mary this way -- that she knew her son's destiny -- some believe she was preserved from sin ("the Immaculate Conception") -- it just doesn't sit right with me! I don't know a mother -- or anyone who loves deeply -- who would not be deeply affected and react strongly to the suffering of a loved one. Being holy doesn't mean to be without feeling in the face of great injustice and suffering.
It is true that the scriptures don't tell us of Mary's emotions that last day -- we know of little of her emotional reactions throughout her life -- perhaps the strongest noted was the visit to the temple when Jesus was 12, his parents left without him, returned to Jerusalem where they found him in the temple. Mary told Jesus that they had been anxiously searching him (Luke 2:42-50). Like normal parents, they were very worried and anxious. We just know Mary was there at the foot of the cross, with her sister Mary (wife of Cleopas) and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25) with the disciple Jesus loved (John 19:26). This conveys her steadfast love for Jesus to the end. The scriptures are silent to Mary's emotional reactions -- instead focusing our attention on Jesus -- his last words and actions. Jesus commanded his beloved disciple to care for his mother as his own -- a powerful statement of love-- so his mother would have someone caring for her after his death and into the future.
As a mother, I can't imagine the horror of the day, how I would feel and respond. I know I would not be stoic and dignified -- as many have depicted Mary. Everyone has their own way of dealing with trauma and grief. Although the scriptures don't give us an insight into Mary's reactions, they story invites us in to respond and react with all our humanity. The degree of reaction is not as important as the emotional connection we establish.
Our reactions are important to ponder as we read scripture and listen to gospel stories in Lent and Holy Week. Our reactions invite us into the teachings, the suffering of Jesus and his love for us. This is a love that should pierce our hearts like a sword, as Mary's heart was pierced. Why? C.S.Lewis, in his book, "The Four Loves," puts it this way:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”Our Lenten journey is about awakening the power and connections to love. When we truly love we make sacrifices. We often suffer. We worry for our parents, our friends, our children.
This is the Love Jesus has for us: he is the Good Shepherd searching for us, the Bread from Heaven to appease our hungers, The Good Samaritan who binds our wounds and cares for us; just as Jesus humbly washes our feet as servant -Teacher/Master. May these stories pierce our souls and awaken us to love.
Let us use all our intellect, imagination and our own emotions to draw closer to Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem as he prepares to meet his fate, out of love for humankind.
When has your heart been pierced by love -- in its joys and sorrows?
Pray: "Jesus, make me vulnerable to love. As you journey to Jerusalem and the cross, may I walk faithfully, lovingly with you."