13 April 2020

Maundy Thursday - Mama

Mama, you knew your Son had come to save us all. You knew that you were the mother of our Creator, our Redeemer, Love in its Purest and most Gentle and Precious Form. You knew what you’d signed up for when St Gabriel at the Annunciation had told you what God wanted of you. Your consent to allow yourself to be used for such a Purpose for the entire world, your fiat, you consented to be part of a much, much bigger and sweet plan than the world had ever experienced – and will ever – know.

Your love for the Father and for all was enough for you to, without a second thought, say, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ (Luke 1.38) That simple statement changed the entire fabric of everything, because you didn’t flinch, you stood and said, ‘Yes.’

You knew that you would be a pariah in your community, and you knew that the gossip would flow like a river. But none of that mattered to you, because you knew that God had chosen you for a Special Purpose.

The night your Precious Son was born, it was cold, you were alone. You had St Joseph, your husband, with you, but no one there to help you. Your mother, your friends, were all at home and tucked away in their beds, awaiting for the commotion of the day that lay ahead. None of that mattered to you. You didn’t complain, you took everything in stride. When our Lord was Born, He had no proper place to sleep, so you made Him a little bed in a manger. Where the animals are fed. It’s interesting that He was put there, because 33 years later, He would offer His Body for us at the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday.

As you looked into your Son’s Chubby Little Face, and He looked back at you, that connection, that bond, was sealed. A bond that starts when a woman knows she’s conceived, is sealed when the baby comes, and it’s almost like a bolt of electricity going through her entire being. That jolt shatters the container of our hearts, and the love that rushes forth, it’s indescribable, and only continues to grow with each blink of the baby’s eyes, each noise the baby makes, each movement. Each second of that baby’s life, that love grows and grows, and it’s enough to kill you with how overwhelming it can be.

When you looked at our Infant Lord, staring deep into the Eyes that looked over all He had made before time was, you knew you were looking into the Face of the Infinite. All wrapped up into One Tiny, Squishy, Gurgling Little Body. That Tiny Boy you just brought forth into this broken, dirty, corrupt world, had come to bring us Home to the Father. I sit here and wonder what must’ve gone through your mind, knowing all that was to come, and yet, you didn’t hesitate to say yes to what was asked of you! And now, here you are, some 40 weeks later, looking at Someone Who chose you to be His mother.

As your Son grew to Manhood, I’m certain that you had all the same concerns, joys, and wonders of parenthood that every mother goes through, but yours… your motherhood was still different from all women who have ever had children. Your Son was special, and you knew that one day, you would have to say good-bye to Him, but that good-bye, though it would shatter you to dust, wasn’t permanent.

When your Precious Boy was 30 years old, He set out to start His Ministry. He set out to tend His flock. Us. Teaching a better way of life. A life that He wants for us, that He had planned before time was. To heal the suffering and bring joy to the disparaging. To bring peace to those in the throes of chaos, and to rescue the lost.

When at your friends’ wedding they had run out of wine, you knew it was time. Time for your Son to begin what He’d come to do. You’d gone to Him and told Him what was needed, and He did so without hesitation. For love of you. For love of His children. When He healed the blind man, it was to restore sight to us all who were blind in our sins. When He healed the leper He’d told to bathe in the fountain of Siloam, it was to cleanse us of our sins. When He healed the deaf, it was to restore hearing to us all so we could hear His Voice calling to us. The woman caught in adultery, He told her, ‘Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more!’ He was telling us, we who constantly are in the throes of adultery, lured away from Him by our own sins, He forgave. The woman with the years-long hemorrhage, in her faith had reached out to touch just the hem of His garment in the bustling crowd, knowing Who He is, and what He could do, He didn’t rebuke her, instead He gazed at her with such Compassion, the very Essence of Who He is, and told her she was healed, she was us, straining to reach Him and only able to touch Him at His hem, and instead of meeting the Face of Wrath, we were met with the Face of Joy and healed in that moment. We only had to touch Him with our prayers from the deepest core of ourselves, crying out for the balm of peace to heal our deepest pains we’ve carried for so long that were killing us from the inside out, despite what the world was trying to say in its clamor to drown His Voice from reaching us. Trying to convince us we weren’t ‘worthy’ enough for anyone to love us in our brokenness, our pain, our suffering.

Each person He encountered and took care of, it was us He was also encountering to heal, to cleanse, to forgive, to love.

The night He entered into His Passion, He chose the Garden of Gethsemane to partake of the Chalice the Father had set before Him. Our brokenness started in the Garden of Eden, and in Gethsemane, ‘oil press,’ He took on all our sufferings to Himself, and He embraced us so tightly, the jagged edges of our brokenness was fused together, glued with the oil of His peace, His love, His everything and entirety. All for love of us.

When He was arrested, during the scuffle, a guard’s ear had been sliced off by St Peter in the struggle to try to free Him from the hard grip of a man who was following orders. The man cried out, gripping the side of his head where his ear once had been, screaming in pain as the blood poured from his head and covered his hand, dripping down from his arms, soiling his clothing. Your Son, in frustration, yelled, ‘Enough of this!’ and picking up the ear from the dirt, He healed the guard, restoring his ear. I wonder, Mama, were those three words, were they uttered not just for that immediate situation, but for all of human existence? Screaming a demand for an end to violence against each other? An end of hatred, an end of pain? Our Lord, your Sweet Son, though He was in the clutches of evil, still loved. Still healed someone who was there to take Him to His Death. And yet, He still loved.

You were home that night. Women didn’t go out at night, so you were home, tucked away safely, but you knew. You knew something was different about that night than any other night you’d ever lived. When St John had come to collect you, he told you they had taken your Son. He told you that your Sweet, Loving Boy had been taken away, though He had never done anything wrong. Heart racing, you didn’t hesitate, not unlike when St Gabriel told you what God wanted to do all those years ago, you came running. This time, to be with your Son, to offer some comfort to Him in His time of distress. Racing through the streets of Jerusalem, your heart seemed like a magnet to His, pulling you ever-forward until you reached where He was being tried for crimes He never would conceive of committing. You stood in the crowd, tears spilling down your beautiful face, watching as your Son, Who stood silently listening to His children screaming their insults, each syllable of their angry words like the blow of a whip to your Immaculate Heart. Your Son, silently listening to the rage and the anger surging through the crowds, just gazed with such love and compassion on His bruised and swollen Face, bloody and cut, scratched, and torn nearly to pieces. Though you were restrained, you reached for Him, and with all your Immaculate Heart yearned to comfort Him in His darkest hour.

Everything seemed to happen so fast. So very quickly. It didn’t seem like you could catch your breath. You were jostled about, the rage seeming to surge so tangibly from everyone screaming for His Blood to be spilled, it could almost be cut with a dull blade. That dull blade sliced through you, almost meeting its purchase when you heard the roar of the angry mob scream in answer to Pilate’s question of what they wanted him to do with our Lord, ‘CRUCIFY HIM!’ Mama. St John by your side, you knew that this was going to happen. You knew what your Jesus was here to do, and yet, you, His mother, felt such a pain hit your heart, the words of Simeon in the temple all those years ago at the Presentation starting to become ever-clearer.

It was time.

Mama… How heartbroken you were seeing your Son, the Embodiment of Innocence and Love Himself, being whipped and scourged, being ripped to pieces by the flail, each impact on Him was a blow to you. How helpless you must have felt, wanting to rush to Him to comfort Him, to put an end to this violence! Each hunk of flesh ripped off of Him was a piece of your Immaculate Heart being stomped to dust. How your soul must have screamed to the Heavens, begging our Father for His mercy! Each insult hurled at your Sweet Son, it was a blow to your soul that you couldn’t fathom. What had He done that was so awful that He deserved such a punishment? Nothing! He would never harm anyone, He had come to love, and yet He is met with hate and venom and disgust. How devastating it must have been for you to see Him abused so savagely, and you couldn’t step in to ease His suffering. This wasn’t just your Child falling and scraping a knee on the pavement, this was such evil that there was no way you could’ve ended what they were doing and not undone what He was accomplishing for us all.

After they were done scouraging your Son, they hauled Him away, placing the Cross on His Back, making Him carry the very weapon of His execution. He was so weak from the loss of Blood, exhausted from no doubt a sleepless night in the cold, damp cave they left Him in, all alone… But He still accepted His Cross and began His journey up the Via Dolorosa, all for love of us. Somehow, in the mob, you lost sight of Him, but only briefly. You knew where they were taking Him, so you tried to get as close to Him as you could, offering your intercession for Him to the Father, begging the Father for help. How could this be God’s Will? But, you didn’t argue. You didn’t get in the way. You humbly followed your Sweet Son, all the way up to Calvary.

During this long and arduous journey, the two of you meet, and for one too-brief moment, you were able to reach out and touch each other, offering comfort that only a mother and Son could give in such a devastating situation. The love between the two of you came to such a climax in that moment, it’s almost as if it stopped time itself. And then, all too soon, He was ripped from you. You gave each other a gentle squeeze as the grip you each had was slipping further and further until He was shoved back up onto the path and back up the Hill. You followed still. St John no doubt right next to you, holding you up each step, the weight of the situation before you threatening to crush your life out of you. Your lungs blazing, it was like someone had sucked all the oxygen out of the world and you were struggling to breathe as you watched the executioner pound the nails into Jesus’ Hands and Feet. The Hands that formed worlds, and creatures and humanity, the 
very humans He created using the iron and wood as tools of hate and death and destruction, destroying the God Who only loved and wanted to share in His abundant grace with us. The blows of the hammer, the guttural cries, almost feral in nature that tore from His friends in the crowd, and yet, Mama, you stood. You didn’t once falter. You stood. Though the earth felt like it was going to fall away into a gaping chasm, threatening to swallow you up, you stood. You kept your eyes only on Him, the scenes in your mind flashing before you of His Life, all those beautiful experiences you had as His mother, raising Him to Manhood. The joy you felt that afternoon, though your heart was shattered with grief, the joy surpassed that because you knew, Mama. You knew that He would be back in a few days, and you knew that He’s God, and death won’t be the victor, but He will. You knew that He was making all things, all things new again. And that helped you maintain your strength to stand. That kept your focus on Him, as His life slipped further and further away, those six agonizing hours watching His Most Sacred Heart slowing down until there was nothing left.

You stood. You did not flinch. You did not try to stop any of this because of your tremendous faith in the Father’s plan and your love for your Son, and you knew that He knew best. Even though you knew it would crush you, you still bore that weight with all the grace and strength to be there for your Son. To be an example for all of us who look to you when we’re going through darkness of our own. You showed that it’s okay to cry, but it’s not okay to give up. To keep our focus on your Son, and we’d make it through when we have our own Calvaries.

The soldiers, instead of breaking Jesus’ Legs, pierced His Side. The spear punctured His Sacred Heart, and an outpouring of water and blood gushed forth. At that moment, the sky went black. It began to rain, and the earth started shaking violently. The temple veil tore from top to bottom. Not possible for human hands to do, as it was too thick to rip open. In that moment, the soldiers knew. They knew that they’d murdered an Innocent Man. They knew what they had done was destroy Someone Who didn’t deserve what He’d been given

Your Son, your Precious Baby Boy, was gone. Gone where you couldn’t follow Him, but you refused to leave His side. You knew He’d be back, but the tears wouldn’t stop coming. Why won’t they stop coming? Why won’t your chest stop aching as if someone punched a hole in your chest and ripped your heart out? This was only a temporary thing, but the grief, the grief just wrapped itself around you tightly into a cocoon you couldn’t escape. You didn’t just grieve the loss of your Beautiful Son. You grieved for humanity, that we needed a Saviour. You grieved for all of us, for what this meant. Our sins had gotten so out of hand, the damage so extensive, Jesus gave His Life to heal us. He left His Heavenly Home in search of His lost sheep, so none would be lost to the wolves, waiting to rip us to pieces.

It’s time to take our Lord down from the Cross. Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple, had offered to give his tomb, hewn in stone, to our Lord for His Rest. Men climbed tall ladders and gently removed our Lord from His Cross, lowering Him to your patiently awaiting arms to be reunited with Him. You held Him close, you cried from the core of your soul for all of us. Your agony itself rose as a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of that of your Son. Your motherly grief was intercession for us all in hope that His Sacrifice for humanity would finally be enough.

You held Him close, feeling like time itself stopped. You held Him so tightly, your arms burned and each breath a gasping plea for air that would not come. Everything in you hurt, but you held Him close because you could do nothing other. You had no concern that His Blood was everywhere, no thought for the dirt and grime all over Him. Your agony is complete, each second feels like an eternity. You wanted to speak, you wanted to cry, but nothing would come. It’s as though your throat closed up, and wouldn’t release even a sound. You said everything you needed to with a kiss on His bruised and broken Face. In between each painful and ragged breath, you whispered all your love into His Ears, Ears that once heard everything and everyone, now deaf because the cold hands of death had ripped Him away and slammed the door. You stroked His Hands, powerful Hands that had formed and shaped worlds, living beings, now stilled. You put your head on His Chest, needing to feel the warmth of His Sacred Heart that was now silent and cold in the grip of death.

Even though you didn’t want to let Him go, you knew it was for the best. It was time to lay Him to Rest in the tomb. This was it. Your Son Who was born in an obscure stable in Bethlehem, now buried as a rich King in Jerusalem. Working the myrrh into His Skin, whispering your ‘I love You’ to Him over and over, and your thanksgiving, you knew that it was almost time to exit the Tomb to put the stone in place…

The hardest thing a person can ever go through is outliving their child. No matter the reason.

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