A Mother’s Love for a Dying Child: a lesson from Good Friday
I walked into the hospital room, and what I saw shocked me. I had been told I was going to visit a terminally ill patient. I was 35 years old, and I was stunned when the patient was my age. It hit me: people like me die. Her illness was not a punishment from God, nor a freak accident. She was sick, and she was dying. If other people like me die, why do I keep living?
Her mother’s example struck me. She cared for her deeply. It must have been tremendously hard to watch your daughter fade away, to watch your daughter die. I spoke some words of comfort and recalled that we are heading to heaven, each one at our speed. The words seemed complicated to get out of my throat, however. I was facing my mortality as well. She was dying, and I was going to go on living. Something did not seem quite fair about the situation.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to watch her Son die on the Cross. He was innocent and perfect. His death would save all men and women. How could he possibly deserve so much suffering? He didn’t.
Mary wanted to hold Jesus
Surely, Mary thought back to the time when she could hold Jesus in her arms. Now, he was thick and robust and would no longer sit on her lap as he had once. She had held the Maker of the world in her arms. When he had just been born, she cradled him in her arms and laid him in the manger. She would wake up during the night, look at him, listen for his tiny breaths to make sure he was still alive. A thousand worries for a young mother! Motherhood turns girls into women quickly because it is so all-engrossing, a colossal task, and its own reward.
Mary enjoyed watching Jesus take his first steps. He would stumble around the house, first in Egypt, then in Nazareth upon their return. She almost looked forward to his little falls, as they were an excuse to snatch him up into his arm and give him a caress and a kiss. He would enjoy the affection for a moment, then push away so he could return to the ground and continue his endeavor of learning to walk.
As he grew up, Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, while Mary seemed to shrink. Nevertheless, he could always return to her for support and a loving gesture. Her love for him would not end. Her love made him feel safe and warm, even as he grew older. Just a few days ago, he had embraced her before the celebration of the Paschal feast. She had not wanted to let go, afraid that trouble was stirring in Jerusalem. Her little “Yeshua” was facing difficulties that would cost him his life.
Just as when he was a little child, he had pulled away. “It is time to go, Mom. My hour has arrived.” Her mind raced back to the wedding at Cana. She had pushed him to perform his first public miracle. A young couple had run out of wine. Her concern led her Son to convert water into wine. He had rebuked her, however. “Woman, my hour is not yet come.” Now, it had come, and in full.
Three years after that miracle in Galilee, thirty-some years since she had borne him in Bethlehem and taught him to walk, she saw him dying on a cross. She had seen his entry into the world, and now she was destined to see his exit. She would have given anything to take him into her arms. She wanted to shield him from the pain. She tried to rescue him from the suffering. Instead, she was called to suffer alongside him.
A rush to judgment
We tend to be quick to judge. When we see someone we consider to be a criminal or a delinquent, we determine rapidly what he or she deserves. We think of what should be done. The leading men of Jerusalem had been quick to get rid of Jesus. It was expeditious. He was threatening their balance of power with the Romans. He was threatening their way of life. It was better to have him killed and be done with it.
The leaders of the Temple considered themselves to be good men. They had every right to put to death this man who claimed to be the Messiah.
We thirst for justice and consider ourselves righteous. Mary, indeed, would look with more merciful eyes. This person has a mother as well. Someone is suffering because of the ill he or she has done in the world. Justice is necessary, but so is mercy.
Mary had learned this from her Son. If he were to suffer so horribly for crimes that he had not committed, there must be just compensation. The end couldn’t come so cruelly. She watched him as he took on the sins of the world. She suffered emotionally with him as he suffered physically and morally.
Mary did have one consolation at the foot of the Cross: you. What? Yes! Jesus wanted you to take care of his mother. Back then, you were not available, so Jesus entrusted her to his apostle, John. He was standing in for you. Jesus had a special surprise planned for his mother: you.
Lesson from Good Friday
What are we to learn from Good Friday? We realize that nothing is too great a price for God to pay for our soul. Mary was the first and most excellent witness to this truth. She desires very much that we take advantage of the redemption that came at so dear a price. What are we worth? The blood of Christ. Who is the witness? Mary, the mother of Our Lord.