Dear brothers and sisters, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
Mary, A true disciple of Jesus Christ
Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. This feast grew in popularity in the 12th Century, even though it was celebrated under various titles. However, it was inserted into the Roman Calendar in 1814 by Pope Pius VII, and Pope Pius X moved the feast to a permanent date of September 15, a day after the Feast of the Holy Cross. Our Lady of Sorrows is a celebration that reminds us of the intense suffering, grief, passion, and agony that the Blessed Virgin Mary bore and passed through as the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Those moments of sorrow were marks of Mary’s discipleship. Mary carried her own Cross as a true disciple of Jesus Christ through them. Among the conditions of discipleship for Jesus Christ is to deny yourself, take up your Cross, and follow him (Matt. 16:24, Mk. 8:34). That was what Blessed Virgin Mary did through her fiat and her willingness to ponder and accept sufferings and sorrowful moments of her life.
The Seven Sorrows of Mary
There are seven principal moments of sorrow that we shall contemplate today as we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.
1 The Prophecy of Simeon
The alternative gospel reading of today (Luke 2:33-35) reminds us of the first sorrow of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary went to present her son to the temple as custom demands, and Simeon told her, “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.” Some of us are parents, and many are mothers. Imagine you have just given birth to the cutest baby, and someone visiting you tells you that your problems and difficulties shall come through that pretty baby you are carrying. I can see you rejecting such insinuations, prophecy, or whatever you might call it. Such will not be your portion; you will retort! Imagine Mary’s agony at those words of Simeon.
2 The flight into Egypt
Imagine the panic of Mary in her flight into Egypt to protect the Child Jesus (Matt 2:13). To receive such a message that one’s child is in danger of being killed by another should be heart-wrenching and agonizing. What followed after was a total massacre of the infants in Bethlehem, and probably, she heard the news.
3 The loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:43-45)
An experience I witnessed has made me understand the enormity of losing a child, even for the shortest span, say 10 minutes. We went to a marriage celebration, and we momentarily lost one of my nephews. His parents turned pale. The environment turned into a situation of confusion, panic, and agony. My nephew was later found, but everyone’s blood pressure had “skyrocketed.” No doubt Mary’s ordeal was more significant than this, but this gave me a glimpse. Imagine yourself in a similar situation and the agony of that moment.
4 The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the way to Calvary
Jesus Christ was tortured, beaten, given a thorn crown, and treated with scorn. Imagine how His loving mother was pierced with grief and anguish when she saw her son suffering from the pains and bruises inflicted on him through the beatings, scourges, and humiliation he received. “Oh, how sad and so distressed was that mother highly blessed, of the sole begotten One,” the words we sing in Stabat Mater.
5 The Crucifixion
Mary followed her son, Jesus Christ, to Calvary and witnessed His Crucifixion. She remained at the foot of the Cross, waiting on her son. Undoubtedly, every nail that went through the hands and feet of Jesus Christ was a stab in the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the words of St. Bernard, “He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since His.” At the foot of the Cross, while beholding her crucified son, Mary was given to us as our mother. Jesus said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.”
Then to the beloved disciple, “Behold your mother,” as we read in today’s Gospel reading (Jn. 19:26).
6 The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross
The Pieta is one of the most recognizable images in Christian art. It shows the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Body of Jesus when he was taken down from the Cross. It showed a mother absorbed in grief. How crushing was this moment? One of the stanzas of “Stabat Mater” reads, “bruised, derided, cursed, defiled, she beheld her tender child… till His Spirit forth He sent.”
7 The burial of Jesus
Are you able to imagine Blessed Mother’s feelings watching her son being laid in the sepulcher? No doubt, her grief, and afflictions knew no bounds. She may have willed herself to be buried with her son as any agonizing mother would.
Let us imitate Mary as Disciples of Jesus Christ
Nowadays, people no longer want to associate themselves with the suffering of any sort and are therefore not willing to carry their Cross. Suffering and adversity are seen as curses and, therefore, should be rejected. Let us remind ourselves that Jesus Christ said, “if you want to be my disciple, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” In the words of St John Vianney, “struggles put us at the foot of the cross, and the cross, at the gate of Heaven.” The Blessed Virgin Mary has taught us to ponder through our sufferings and sorrowful moments and accept them as our Cross for God’s blessedness.
Always remember that Jesus loves you!