"Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is any suffering like my suffering." The anguished cry of a mother who has just watched her precious, radiant, beloved son be tortured to death in the most hideous and agonizing way possible. The cry of a mother who has heard her innocent son’s cries of agony and of abandonment. The cry of a mother who has helplessly listened to her child’s agonized gasps for breath, watched him bleed, watched him die. Now, her child’s savaged body is placed in her arms. It is sticky with drying blood and slick with new, and cloaked in the stink of the suffering of the last few hours. Already, the flies will have found their bloody meal and be lighting on the ripped flesh seeking to lay their eggs in the fertile ground of violent death.
The old man Simeon rejoiced when the infant Messiah was laid in his arms in the temple. But after his song of joy, he turned to Mary and said “But you yourself a sword shall pierce.” A sword? The stab of a sword would be a minor prick compared to the grief this mother feels now. A real sword through the heart would be a sharp, quick end to the grief. This is a crushing agony that makes it a struggle to breathe, much like when the Crucified One had to struggle, pushing against nailed feet so that He could raise up and gasp air into lungs compressed by His own sagging weight on the cross.
Yet breathe she does, because a promise was made. Have faith in God and at the end of days, all will be made right. All will be perfected. And Mary, ever faithful, clings to that promise even in her agony and in the seemingly endless depths of her grief. She clings with a lifetime of experience that has taught her that faith is not a fuzzy, warm safety. That faith does not mean that she will know all or understand all. That faith will not protect her from pain or heartbreak. That faith is both a gift and a decision made. So she takes one breath and then another, knowing even in the depths of her anguish, that at the end of days all will be perfected and made right, indeed, all HAS been perfected and made right by the bloody, lifeless child she now holds in her arms.
I am a mother. My child, who is in her thirties now, works at a job that often requires her to have an armed police escort. Her life has been threatened more than once. Day in and day out she has to walk into situations where Evil and madness exist, where people without consciences do appalling things and then weep not because of the evil they’ve done but because they’ve been caught. One of her fellow college graduates has already been murdered – stabbed to death in the line of duty as she was trying to help someone. I wonder, if I ever receive the phone call that tells me that my child has been killed, that my child has been destroyed by Evil, if I, like Mary, could take the next breath. I wonder, have I accepted the gift of faith, made the decision for faith, lived that faith in such a way that if ever I am looking down at the lifeless body of my precious child, I will be able to take one breath, followed by another, because somewhere in all the pain I will know that another bloody, lifeless child laying in the arms of another anguished mother has perfected all and made right all in the Eternal Now of God.