Friday, April 18, 2014

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

John 19: 26-27

Last summer I had the great blessing of being on retreat for 30 days in preparation for my final vows. The retreat is designed to help a person enter into certain times in the lives of Jesus and Mary in order to strengthen one's relationship with them both. In that way a person's "yes" has a foundation in something solid. The mysteries on which one meditates are the annunciation, the crucifixion, Pentecost and Cana. Today I return to my time on Calvary.

Of my 30 days of retreat the time I spent contemplating the scene on Calvary were the most meaningful - and the longest. The retreat, while guided by a director, was somewhat self-paced. This morning, as we enter into the mystery of Good Friday, I thought it would be appropriate to share with you some of my reflections from the days I spent "on Calvary" last summer… 
(The thoughts are a little disjointed because they were written on different days… and I've removed some things… Also, the image above is not the image written about below).

Today, I return to Calvary. The place where Jesus asks us to take Mary as our Mother. The place where both Jesus and Mary give of themselves completely for love of us.
This morning I am sitting in the Chapel at the Marianist Residence and trying to contemplate the image before me - Jesus is being lowered (presumably from the unseen cross) into the arms and lap of Mary who is gazing into the face of her dead son.
Can there be any image more sad than a mother gazing at the face of her dead child? It's a heartbreaking image. What must be on her mind? What anguish - what heartbreak - what sorrow….
I had not realized it until now - Jesus uses the same word (at least in the English translation) that Mary used at the Annunciation, "Behold." … "Woman, behold your son." "Behold your mother." Look and see with the eyes of love. Look and see with the eyes of your heart.  
I am the beloved disciple. I am the one whom Jesus loves. … At the foot of the cross Mary takes my hand. Both of us filled with sorrow - her sorrow much deeper. And yet, there is strength in her stance and faith in her gaze - it shows through even the deepest grief. Love. That is what I see. Love for Jesus and love for me. I want to drink that in.
Imagine how she held the broken and bruised body of Jesus after his death. This speaks to me in saying that she will also hold me in moments of need. But, it also says that in imitation of her, I should hold those who are crucified today - in the many ways people are crucified in our day.  
 "Mary, behold your daughter. Love her as you love me."  This is essentially what Jesus is saying, "Help her become the person you helped me to be. Teach her, guide her, listen to her, speak to her heart. Love her as you love me and as I love you."… "Nicole, behold your mother. Love her. Learn from her. Have her concerns as your own. Allow her to nurture my life in you so you can become more like me." 
Looking at the suffering Christ - I see love. "No greater love has one than this, to lay down one's life for a friend." That is what the call is - to be love. To give - not counting the cost. To sacrifice for the good of others…. Mary who taught Jesus all of what it means to be human in this world - teach me, as well, how to be more like Jesus - to be a better human being - to be love.

Yes, this is where my Good Friday prayers take me… to the foot of the cross with Mary. 

May each of you be blessed with the graces of this day as we contemplate the great love of Jesus poured out from the cross into our world… and into our lives.

Many blessings to all who read this,
Sr. N