While reflecting upon the Seven Sorrows of Mary tonight, I was reminded of a homily I heard at Mass today by Father Mike McNamara. He spoke against something that somehow always bugged me—didn't sit quite right—and that would be the notion of Mary as the weak, totally berserk, wreck of a grief-maddened woman unable to cope with her enormous sorrows.
(I almost got up and applauded, but thankfully my guardian angel held me firmly in my check.)
Indeed, it's true that Mary is a "gentle woman." So please, Carey Landry fans, no protests, thanks.
She's also One. Tough. Lady!
Don't like the image of Mary's toughness? Ponder, if you will, on the "Seven Sorrows."
1.) Simeon's Prophesy. Okay so she's told her Child will be the rise and fall of many..."and you, yourself, a sword shall pierce." How did she react? Did she say "good grief, no, no, I'm not ready nor willing for this stuff!" Nope. She accepted it. Pondered his words.
2.) The Flight into Egypt. I mean, come on! First she gives birth in some barn somewhere in a tiny town. Then she finds out some maniac "king" is dead set on killing—killing!—her little Boy. Her husband tells her he dreams that they've gotta hot tail it into a foreign country and what does she do? Say, "no, sorry, my parents haven't even seen the Boy and besides, what the bleep am I supposed to do in Egypt of all places?" Nope. She just does it. She goes. She Womans-up, so to speak.
3.) Jesus Can't be Found. Any parent who's lost a child—in the mall, at the beach, in the park, wherever—has to understand the agony of this situation. As it turned out, Mary thought He was with Joseph, Joseph thought He was with Mary...you know the story. So for three bleeping days they backtracked, searching, looking, praying...and finally they found Him. In the temple, for Heaven's sake, "listening...and asking questions." Did she admonish her Son? Well, in a way, yes she did, and understandably so! But when He answered her question, she accepted it. She didn't kvetch and moan about the Impossible Nerve of Some People's Children or anything like that. She accepted it and took Him home. Period.
4.) Mary meets Jesus on the Road to Calvary. She probably cried. But she didn't keel over. She followed him.
5.) Mary Sees Her Son Crucified. Crucified! As horrible as any death is, crucifixion pretty much trumps it all. Imagine how you'd feel if you saw your son, or daughter, or husband, or even that person you really don't like all that much suffering unspeakable horrors? Again, she probably cried. But again, she didn't crumple. She stood by the Cross. Mostly all their friends fled like ninnies—to be honest, what I'd probably do—but she stood by the Cross. Did I mention that this is One Tough Lady?
6.) Mary Sees Her Son Taken Down from The Cross. It's all over folks. Nothing more to see. The guy's dead. Another day in good ol' Roman-ruled territory so you might as well go home. Not so with Mary. If you examine Michelangelo's Pieta and other similar images, you can search but you will not find any hysterical woman. You'll see a sorrowful woman, indeed, but not one ready for the looney bin. You'll see—and I hope you pray on this—one resigned to the Will of God.
Here's the thing: Mary is tough!
She's tough on sin, tough on the devil, and filled with tough love—of the best sort—for her children. That would be you and me.
So it's probably best to follow her advice: the last of her words recorded in the Bible:
Do Whatever He Tells You!
May He continue to bless us, and may our very loving, and very tough Mother continue to pray for us all.
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