September 15

Our Lady of Sorrows

On the day following the Exhalation of the Cross, the Church honors the Mother of Jesus and her role in the Passion. It presents two passages, one at the foot of the Cross, the other from his infancy. Both reflect the pain not only of her motherhood but also her place as the first witness to her Son's salvific self-giving.

First Reading and Psalm from Daily Readings

Gospel A: John 19:25-27

25 (Women) had stood beside the cross of JESUS: HIS mother, the mother of HIS sister, Mary of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 JESUS, having seen (HIS) mother and the disciple whom he loved standing alongside, said to HIS mother, "Look! Your son." 27 Next, he said to his disciple, "Look! Your mother." From that hour, the disciple took her into his own (house).

The high point of the Passion in John's gospel was the appearance of Jesus' mother. The woman who was instrumental in the Lord's first sign of glory now stood before him in all his glory. Like many other details in John, the mother of Jesus was a symbol. She represented the "roots" of Jesus: his family and place in society, his traditions and ancestry as a Jew, his humanity. The family of Jesus had certainly ceased to be a powerful factor in the Church after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Since the gospel was written some twenty years after that, John put greater concentration on the "Jewishness" and humanity of Jesus. So, the mother of Jesus was his connection to his religion and his birth. (Luke depicted Mary in the same way at the Annunciation.)

At the wedding feast in Cana, the roots of Jesus (i.e., his mother) pushed him into a moment of revelation. That began the public ministry of Jesus in John. Now, Jesus was revealed for all to see. At Cana, he objected that his hour had not yet come. Now, it had come. There was no need for his mother to speak.

His mother stood with his beloved disciple. Jesus' roots stood with the movement that would carry on his work. The two needed each other. But his own countrymen rejected the Nazarene movement in their midst. The Jewish believers had been excommunicated and sent out like the homeless. They needed a new home. Just as much as the Gentile neophytes needed their Jewish brethren for context and tradition. In a few words of love, he gave the old and the new to each other. His mother did have a home with the beloved disciple.

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Or Gospel B: Luke 2:33-35

33 (JESUS') father and mother were surprised on that spoken about HIM. 34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Look! THIS (CHILD) is placed for the fall and standing of many in Israel and toward a sign opposed-- 35 and a sword will go through your own soul- so that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed."

2:34 " . . . fall and standing . . . " refers to scandal and faith; it also refers to death and resurrection ("standing up" in Greek means resurrection). "...a sign opposed . . . " is literally " . . . a sign being spoken against . . . " Jesus would be opposed.

Simeon turned to Mary and proclaimed the child would cause the fall and rising of many. The fall and rising can refer to scandal and faith. It can also refer to condemnation (God's judgment) and resurrection (his salvation). He would be a sign many opposed, but their actions would reveal their true intent. The scandal-judgment of Jesus would cause Mary deep pain. [2:33-35]

Mary would suffer but would also exult in the glory of her Risen Son. And like her, the Jesus community, his Church, would do likewise. And so, we Christians honor her for her witness both in sorrow and in joy. For she foreshadowed our faith journey.