SEPTEMBER 15, 2003, OUR LADY OF SORROWS

HOMILY: JOHN 19: 25- 27 

AT THE CROSS OF JESUS THERE STOOD MARY, HIS MOTHER.  The liturgy for today’s feast provides for an alternate Gospel reading, the passage in St. Luke where Simeon foretells to Mary that a sword of sorrow will pierce her heart. This text from St. John portrays the fulfillment of that prophecy in all its bitter realization. The lance that pierced the heart of Jesus was not felt by him for he had died shortly prior to its penetrating his body. But Mary was there to feel its penetrating thrust in her own heart, already wrung by the sharpness of her pain at witnessing the torture her Son experienced before her eyes.   

In the Middle Ages it was customary to illustrate in painting the Annunciation to Mary of the Incarnation. A number of these portrayals show Mary alone in her room where she is reading when the angel surprises her with his message. The book of the Scriptures is open at the passage from Isaiah in which the prophet speaks of the Suffering Servant of the Lord. There it is told how, though innocent, God’s chosen one would suffer for the sins of many. The theological point made by the artists is a penetrating one: Mary in accepting to become the mother of Christ knowingly consented to become the mother of the Messiah knowing he would be a man of suffering. When she gave her consent to the word of God transmitted by the angel, she willingly agreed to undergo the anguish and sorrows that would inevitably accompany the motherly relation with a son destined to suffer intensely for the salvation of many.  

That sorrow and anguish were to be prominent in her life the prophet Simeon revealed to her inspired, as St. Luke informs us, by the Holy Spirit. His prediction that she would undergo such sharp suffering because of her son that her heart would be transfixed only confirmed what she had already foreseen when she gave her consent to God’s plan of redemption. Mary’s faith from the beginning, then, included a participation in the salvific sufferings of her son.  She was closely associated with him in the years of intimate family living, sharing life with such a gifted and loving son. She lived with the awareness that his destiny was to bring him into conflict and seeming defeat. It was against the background consciousness of   this mysterious plan of God that she maintained her faith that Jesus would fulfill the high promises spoken of him at the Annunciation and reveal himself as truly the Son of God, victorious over all resistance. Mary was not only loving, and hymnbke; she was also courageous and enduring. Her faith was not preserved in a climate of unbroken consolation but was loving communion that also inclluded sorrow and suffering. 

If we commemorate the Sorrows of Mary in today’s feast, it is in order to pay homage to  the Lord who so strengthened Mary by the gifts of his Spirit that she was able to prove faithful and to remain loving even while enduring the anguish that attended her throughout her son’s earthly existence. We also honor and thank our Blessed Mother for her constancy and faith in her son and for her persisting willingness to extend her love to all of us who belong to him. May the grace of this Eucharist win for us the light and strength to prove worthy of her care by imitating her fidelity and her trust, in good times and in periods of suffering and sorrow. For such perseverance in trust we are made worthy of that kingdom where the children of God enter and, led by Mary as their queen, give glory to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

  Abbot John Eudes Bamberger


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