And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Today the church celebrates the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. Mary receives the title “The Sorrowful Mother” because she symbolizes love and steadfastness in the face of extreme suffering. For this feast day the church uses John’s gospel account of the crucifixion. It is the only gospel that specifically mentions Mary at the foot of the cross, to emphasize her devotion to her son through his time of greatest suffering and even after his death. While the synoptic gospels simply mention women watching from a distance, John’s Gospel focuses on Mary’s presence close to her son, displaying her faithfulness and love despite the unbearable sorrow she experienced.
Reading this gospel, Mary’s faithfulness stands out. Mary may be sad, but she stays at the foot of the cross. Her heart may be pierced, but she remains with her son. She may be overwhelmed with suffering, but she waits by her son until the end. In the midst of this, Jesus entrusts his mother to his disciple John. Jesus takes care of her in her sorrow.
Once again we can learn from Mary’s example. Is there something in our lives that is causing sadness? Are we overwhelmed with life? Perhaps we have friends or family members who are suffering, and our hearts are breaking. Can we rely on Jesus in the same way Mary did? Can we remain near to him in our suffering and trust that we too will be taken care of?
—Sharron Deax Hanisch earned a Master of Theological Studies degree from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. She is the mother of four children and coordinates Diversified Pastoral Ministries at the Church of St. Mary, Tulsa, OK.
At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.
—Stabat Mater, 13th century hymn text by Jacopone da Todi, O.F.M.