Sunday, June 09, 2019

Standing by The Cross

Standing by The Cross

Then he asked, "Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!" The man replied, "The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it." The LORD God then asked the woman, "Why did you do such a thing?" The woman answered, "The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it." Genesis 3:11-13

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

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: Pour forth, we beseech You, O Lord,
Your Grace into our hearts;
that as we have known the incarnation of Christ,
your Son by the message of an angel,
so, by His passion and cross
we may be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.
Through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

For the last 50 days from Easter through yesterday, we celebrated the Church at her most victorious (dare we say “Glorious?”) moments.  The Resurrection.  The Ascension. The Descent of the Holy Spirit.  

On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrated the festival when Christians acclaimed and accepted the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The very name comes from the Greek pentekoste, “fiftieth.” Pentecost marks the birthday of the Christian Church and the start of the Church’s mission to the world.

When we expect the Church to mark Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, instead we get the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church!

Is it an accident of the calendar that, on the very day after Pentecost Sunday when the Lord gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to gird us on our mission, we step back to the foot of the cross and stand with the Mother of the Church? Could this “Good Friday” sorrowful mystery actually be the Church at her most victorious moment?

Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to thy word.

For her whole adult life, Mary knew what had to happen on the cross. From that momentous encounter with Simeon in the temple, Mary sealed what she knew into the silence of her heart.  Now, in the scene related in today’s Gospel, Mother Mary is completing her “duties” as Jesus’ Mother one final time.  Mary stood by Jesus to the end. Mary could not NOT be at the foot of the cross. 

She does not do so with weeping and wailing.  The image we have of Mary on this day is an image filled with kindness, faithfulness, and loyalty as she holds her beloved son one more time physically. Once that is over, she can behold him in her heart forever.  At the prompting of Jesus on the cross, Mary considers the past and contemplates her future. “Woman, behold your son…one final time.”

In this episode that some depict as a scene of utter sadness, devastation, and despair, the stone-carver’s Mary shows a different mood and demeanor. Michelangelo gives us a youth-filled, serene-seeming, resigned Mary – frozen in the silence and fullness of time, enveloped in graceful acceptance as her arms surround her son one last time.

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

Despite his humiliating death and her abject sadness, there is immense beauty at this moment. This present moment depicts God’s love in human terms – and God’s love is the first love there ever was. God’s love and Mary’s response represent a love that overcomes the sins of Adam and Eve and all of us. 

God drew you into this scene at the foot of the cross.  Now is the time to reflect upon that mystery and hear why God has chosen to insert you into this picture.

If we have an ounce of piety in our blood, we have to take it from the sanctuary to the streets.  We have to define our piety with our action.  Define it and live out the role of the Church in the Modern World -- a church holding her lifeless Son, a Son who has given his everything. A Son who will provide us with a future of eternal hope in three short days.

Today’s Memorial reminds us of our commitment and commission: Encounter Jesus in the present moment -- on the cross or the streets. This requirement is at the foundation of a Christ-centric and other-centric community-building. 

What practices make a difference for you?

Take a new look at La Pietà by Michelangelo Buonarroti all over again. Take a new look at La Pietà in your life all over again. How will you hold Him up to the world?  What is your reply?

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