Memorial of the Sorrowful Mother
"At the cross her station keeping, stood the mournful mother weeping, close the Jesus at the last. Through her heart, his sorrow sharing, all his bitter anguish bearing, now at length the sword had passed." As a young boy I was always moved when the verses of the Stabat Mater were sung as we made the Way of Cross. Little did I realize then that I would become a Passionist and be invited to learn from Mary that compassion that would open for me the meaning and power of the cross.
The thought meaning of the passage from Hebrews really begins in verse 4:15-16. when the writer assures us that we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. The reason of course is his solidarity with us. He has been tempted in every respect as we are. The writer then notes important aspects of the Judaic high priesthood: offering sacrifice for sin, chosen from among men and called by God. He then emphasizes the appointment of Jesus as the Christ by his Father.
Now we come to our passage. Christ was in the flesh. In the face of death he cried out to God and shed tears. God heard him because of his reverence. He learned obedience from what he suffered. Finally, when perfected, i.e. when he had fully completed his mission by dying on the cross, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
John tells us that Mary stood nearby the cross on that fateful Friday. The sword predicted by Simeon was thrust deep into her heart. May our prayer be: "O sweet Mother! Font of love, touch my spirit from above, make my heart with yours accord. Make me feel as you have felt, make my soul to glow and melt, with the love of Christ my Lord. Holy Mother, pierce me through, in my heart each wound renew of my Savior crucified."
Fr. Michael Hoolahan, C.P. is on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.