Pushing Grief Aside

What can Mary teach us about being overtaken by grief too great to comprehend?
by Kathryn M. Cunningham, MAPS | Source: Catholic.net

No one living can claim to really know what it was like to survive the tragic events of Holy Week.  Of course there is a laser like focus on Jesus first and the disciples second.  Oddly enough, we barely give attention to Mary throughout this tragedy.  The Church added her Seven Sorrows devotion later and noted her presence in the crowd watching, at the crucifixion and then at the tomb.  It seems to me, thought, that this was really a second thought.  Perhaps we have actually missed the most powerful witness to these events along with the lessons that Mary has to teach us about these three days that changed history?

It is true that Jesus is the one who suffered physically, spiritually and emotionally in a way that it is beyond human understanding.  Mary, though, was one of us.  We can observe her experience and her reactions as recorded in scripture in a way that is “close to home” and entirely human. The information in the Word about Mary’s presence during the Tridiuum is sketchy, but there is enough to give us some basis for more than just speculation about Mary’s state of mind and heart during these three wrenching days.

In John 10, Jesus’ claim as the Son of God is challenged and he tells us: “If I perform the Father’s works, even if you do not believe in me, believe the works.”  In a paradox of occurrences we note that in the life of Jesus, Mary was the only one who was present at the “heights” of giving birth, having heavenly beings and Kings come to her in celebration, as well as the depths; being present and helpless at her son’s brutal, sadistic and agonizing murder. At the same time she is abandoned by the majority of his friends and supporters. Only she was there for it all, from beginning to end.  So what does this woman have to teach us? She shows us more than perseverance, more than humility, more than devotion. Without exception she is “present”.  In circumstances that were life threatening and soul crushing she shows the astounding ability to comprehend and be focused on things that were “not about her”.  As humans, this is all too natural to do when bad times afflict us.  We tend to go inward and retreat when life’s circumstances deliver cruel blows.   She saw it all, from beginning to end.  Jesus’ formation of his new ministry was apparent to her.  The disciples witnessed his death and ran, concerned about their own skin and immersed in their own personal disappointment.  Mary, however, saw the “big picture” and could not be moved.

In an all too prophetic act, Jesus even “turns the reins over” to her as he tells John “Behold your Mother.”   Imagine being immersed in the most tragic, gut wrenching event of your life and having someone come to you with “one more job” before you have had a moment to consider it.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t even begin to speculate as to what that would be like.  “Not now, I can’t think.” might be an answer that I would give.  Yet Mary is not recorded as refusing, complaining or accepting for that matter.  We can read the scripture for a clear indication of her answer.  She would deny her son nothing and we see in the book of Acts that Mary is really the force holding it all together.  She is not only John’s “new” Mom, but the presence in the upper room, waiting for her boys to return and the next phase of their work to begin.  Mary and the women wait and are present while the scattered apostles return.  As a united group they are recorded as receiving the great commission at the Ascension.

In order for this to happen there had to be an amalgamating presence to bring them all into each other’s good graces and wipe away that shame of their collective desertion.  Remember that they all ran and hid out of pure fear and cowardice.  The only followers left were the women who had supported them and the Beloved disciple.  Mary, Jesus’ Mother is the one given a direction by her son which completely changes her identity.  Next time she is mentioned it is in the Upper Room. No doubt she was the one who welcomed each deserter when he found out that there was still a gathering despite the fact that Jesus was dead.  Each returning son had to look her in the face and admit his cowardice during the whole affair.  It is almost impossible to imagine that with this group of fiery personalities there was no arguing, accusation, blaming or name calling.  Whatever took place, the presence of Mary in her grace and courage forgave their embarrassment and kept the group intact for whatever was next.  Mary had the ability to look past her grief and push it aside because Jesus had taught her a “larger vision”.  Her forgiveness and love for the disciples made the new ministry possible.  Her vision here clearly shows that “the end” isn’t always “the end”.

Sometimes what seems like a final conclusion is really the introduction for “what’s next”.  Like all human emotions deep grief is not a bad thing, but neither is it a “be all” or an “end all”.  There are times when we need to learn the wisdom of looking past our strong feelings so that we can make room for what the Spirit has next.  Emotion carries with it great energy.  Some times that can be a great distraction because the feeling itself vies so strongly for our attention.  In some cases, though, that energy can catapult us forward and land us in a place where things are completely changed.  That takes courage, Hail Mary! 

On the Net:
www.AtravelersView.org. Check out the page titled “Rituals”.

Copyright © 2011, Holy Week, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved.

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