For the third day running, our daily Mass readings bring us to the cross. Sunday, Jesus instructed that the cross was at the heart of his identity as Messiah. He also taught that each true and mature disciple must take up his or her cross each day should they choose to follow him.
Yesterday on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, we celebrated the glory of our salvation, won by our Savior upon the wood of the cross. We asked for the grace to embrace the cross and all it entails with a joyful vision of the triumph it ultimately obtains.
Today, on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we see the first and greatest disciple of Jesus at the foot of his cross, Mary. Though we speak of the glory of the cross and the joy discovered in salvation, we would be less than human if we did not also acknowledge the great suffering that also accompanies discipleship. This suffering is a part of love. St. Bernard, in speaking of Mary at the foot of the cross, brings this out beautifully in a selection from today’s Office of Readings:
Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.
One lesson for the disciples is clear and consistent. The cross is central to our present life, and the only ladder to life eternal with God. As we mature in faith and discipleship, we learn this lesson. We learn not to run from the reality of the cross, but to find our surest shelter in its shade. We learn the joy of giving our life away, bit by bit, as the surest sign of our faith in the Lord Jesus, and the strongest evidence of our love for God.
Mary, as we seek the shelter of the cross this day, may we find ourselves in your company. Through your intercession, may we have the hearts of love to discover and serve your Son in those who suffer today. Through your love and compassion, may we find comfort and solace for the trials, tribulations and sufferings entailed in living our life in love for others.