The Sorrows of Motherhood

“When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, 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 to his own home.” (John 19:26-27)

I went to visit a very old woman, to pray with her and give her Holy Communion. She looked very healthy but she was still recovering from a surgical operation that was done a few months ago. Her children told me to help them talk to their mother to stop being worried because her restlessness (over-thinking) was not helping the progress of her recovery. In the course of my interaction with her, she said something that brought tears to my eyes: “Father, only death can make a woman forget her children.”

Is this how deep a mother’s love can be? No wonder, God used the analogy of a mother’s love for her children to describe the weight of His affection for mankind. Isaiah 49:15, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even those may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

Today, we celebrate the adjoining Feast to that of yesterday; Our Lady of Sorrows. If truly Jesus suffered on the cross, it follows that Mary, His Mother, suffered twice as much. As the saying goes: “it is harder to watch the pains of those we love than to bear our own pains.” Of course, Mary was not the only woman crying at the scene of the crucifixion but none was as painful as hers. So painful that Jesus himself in a bid to console His Mother handed her over to his closest friend; John the Beloved.

See how today’s Gospel passage ends: “And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own home.” And from that time, we Christians, the disciples of Jesus took Mary into our homes, into our hearts, into our prayers and indeed, into our lives. Back then, what caused Mary pain was the loss of her Son, Jesus. Today, what causes Mary pain is the sinful lifestyle of Christians – her children.

Of course, anyone who believes that Jesus is God is a child of Mary. As Jesus noted: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50, Mark 3:35) However, there are many Christians today who do not regard Mary as their mother or as anything at all. Countless times, I have been at the receiving end of “hate speeches” directed against Mary. I know that this phenomenon causes great sorrow to the woman whom God so honoured.

If you are a mother and your children have no respect for you, then you have an idea of the sorrow of Mary. In the wedding at Cana, Mary simply said: “Do whatever He tells you” to the servants while she disappeared from the scene. The glory went to Jesus alone. Our devotion to Mary only helps us do whatever Jesus tells us, it helps us become better Christians and all our worship goes to God alone. No matter how we try to explain this fact, haters of Mary carry a false notion in their head that for us Mary is somehow competing with God.

One of the reasons Christians were persecuted in the early Church was that the Romans had this belief that during the Eucharistic celebration, they were slaughtering babies to eat when in fact, they were only sharing the body and blood of Jesus in Holy Communion. There was nothing the Christians would say to convince their haters of the truth; there is nothing we can say today to convince our fellow Christians that we do not worship Mary.

As we recall the sorrows of Mary, our first reading from the book of Hebrews tells us how Jesus despite being the son of God learned obedience through suffering. If we suffer as Christians, let us know that we are not alone. Suffering is not a sign of weakness on the part of God neither is it simply a punishment for our sins. Suffering is part of what it means to be alive and human. Embrace your sorrow and like bitter medicine, something good will begin to come from it.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, I honour you today by reflecting on the pains your mother passed through as part of her share in your redeeming work of salvation. Amen.

Bible Study: Hebrews 5:7-9, Psalm 31 & John 19:25-27).

Fr. Abu.

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