Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother
+We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. this man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. … Simeon blessed [the child’s father and mother] and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’” Luke 2:25-26, 34-35
“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” John 19:25-27
Is there any suffering like the suffering of a mother for her child? How many mothers have witnessed their children imprisoned, tortured, and brutally executed? Can anything console her? Can anything relieve her pain?
When Jesus journeyed His way of the cross, the Via Dolorosa, He encountered many on the road: Pilate, the soldiers, Simon, Veronica, the women of Jerusalem, the Beloved Disciple. And He met His Mother. What thoughts went through His mind at that moment? What aches did He endure, greater than even the weight of the cross He bore? He knew what He was doing was for the sake of our salvation, even for the sake of her salvation. Did that soften the heartache? Did that lessen the pain? Watching Mary suffer so at the vision of her tortured and brutalized Son, knowing in but a few hours His time on this earth would end, must have been His greatest sorrow. More than for the physical agony He met, surely the emotional and spiritual torment He felt when their eyes met was greater. As for Mary, the suffering she bore could not have been greater had she herself carried her Son’s cross.
There is a Catholic tradition called the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which identifies and recommends devotions to Our Lady of Sorrows (Mater Dolorosa) and the seven sorrows she suffered. These are:
- The prophecy of Simeon
- The flight into Egypt
- The loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple
- The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross
- The Crucifixion
- The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross
- The burial of Jesus
Like so many others, I anticipated with great eagerness to premier of The Passion of the Christ, the film by Mel Gibson. My wife and I went to a viewing with four good friends, who were part of our monthly prayer and reflection group at the time. The theatre was packed. The movie was difficult to watch. The violence unleashed on Jesus, the betrayal of His disciples, and the anger of the mob directed toward the One we all loved so dearly was taxing. But, where I lost it and began to sob like a baby was when Jesus meets His Mother on the way of the cross. The movie flashes back to where Jesus is just a child, and He stumbles and falls. Mary is there, and she picks her boy up, dusts Him off, and comforts Him. Back on the Via Dolorosa, she sees Jesus fall again. She rushes to Him to help Him up. With battered, bloody face, He looks into her eyes and says, “See, Mother, I make all things new!”
My own mother died when I was just shy of my eighteenth birthday and only weeks from graduating high school. I loved my mother so much, and there wasn’t a day that we saw each other that we didn’t tell each other that we loved each other. For various reasons, she had not been practicing the faith for some time. I was privileged, while she was in the hospital, to arrange a visit by a monsignor to speak with her and to hear her Confession and to bless her. I would read to her from my Bible when I visited her hospital bed. On the night we were called to my sister’s house in anticipation of her death, she was lying on the couch. I took her hands and looked in her eyes and told her, “Everything is going to be alright.” She looked up at me and said, “I hope so.” No, it was not a stirring proclamation of faith in the face of death. Even still, I take comfort that my mother’s last words to me were words of hope, however faint. I trust that Jesus can make up whatever may have been lacking. Jesus, I trust in you.
Father, you called Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, to bear the sword of suffering that pierced her heart as surely as the lance pierced the Heart of her Son. When the time came, she did not abandon her Son, but walked the Way of the Cross beside Him, knelt at the ground under His cross, and wept when they put His lifeless Body in her arms. Her love for Jesus was unending, as is her love for your Church, His Mystical Body. Today, your Church suffers the cross of martyrdom, the cross of persecution, the cross of ridicule and animosity for remaining faithful to your revelation in Christ. May we, like Mary, be willing to endure whatever torments may come as the price of never wavering from our faithfulness to the gospel. Amen.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.