Good Friday: Mary at the foot of the cross

April 14, 2017

 Good Friday Reflection                                                                                                                               April 14, 2017

            They told me not to come.  They said it would only make it harder….as if staying home while my son hung on a cross would be anything less than torture—no matter where I was.  Since he was making this sacrifice for a world of people who had spat on him, betrayed him, abandoned him, mocked him, ignored him, and now slowly killed him… well then it seems to me that I can make this sacrifice for him.  I can sit at the foot of the cross as my son slowly dies.  I can do that at least. 

            I am so close I can smell his sweat.  That smell brings me a strange comfort.  It is as familiar to me as my own sweat.  I smelled it after he came inside after running around with his friends and lay down with me at the hottest part of the day, when all you could do was rest.  I smelled it as he worked with his father on various projects.  I know that smell as well as I knew his voice and his face. 

            As soon as he started this crazy journey…trying to help people understand and know God, understand and know him—as soon as he started that, I have been spending more time with him.  Sometimes I have stood at a distance as he has taught. Sometimes I just watched him sleep.  I don’t ever want to forget his face.  When I watched him sleep, I would remember who he was as a child, that sweet baby I held in my arms so many years ago.  It feels as though  thousands of years have passed since he was born. But now that sweat is mixed with a different smell.  Blood. 

            That combination of blood and sweat reminded me of another time years ago when I lay on the floor in a room of hay with animals walking in and out. Joseph pacing by my side, trying to be helpful. Blood. Sweat. I was there at his birth and I will be there when he dies. I will stay. 

            I look up and I can see him looking at the soldiers as they divide his clothing.  It makes me angry.  He just looks sad.  Sad and tired.  Then he turns to me and his eyes meet mine.  A fresh pain courses through my body.  I did not think the pain could get worse, but it does.  I am reminded of that time when he was just 8 days old. Joseph and I were so happy. We had been through so much but now we had this beautiful boy.  We went to the temple with our small sacrifice of 2 pigeons.  We offered this sacrifice to the Lord.  As we prepared to leave an old man approached us. While he was old and walked with difficulty, his face emanated joy. 

            He came and took Jesus out of my arms.  At first I was afraid he was going to take him from me, but then he spoke and I knew there was something special about this man.  He said something about seeing salvation and how Jesus, our baby, would be a light for all people.   He then blessed us all and said something I will never forget. “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

            It did not make sense to me then.  How could he be a light to all nations, but also be hated and opposed?  Why would my soul be pierced? I had listened to God.  I had said yes when he made that crazy request of giving birth to a baby who was to be the Son of God.  I said yes.  Why would my soul be pierced?  But I understand now.  I understand what it is to have your soul pierced.  I felt it long before this moment.  I felt it when the people tried to stone him because he said things that were contrary to what everyone believed, when he disagreed with the great religious leaders and even the Romans.  I begged him to stop, stop causing a stir.  There had to be a better way.  He did not listen. He just gave me that look.  I felt my soul pierced again when he was arrested, then again when the crowd shouted, “Crucify him.” I felt it over and over again.  Now, it was complete.  My soul was in pieces.  There was nothing left to pierce. 

            There is that look again.  He looks into my eyes.  I expect to see pain, maybe even anger.  But as I search his eyes, I see something else.  I see love. Though it must be so painful to speak he says, “Woman, here is your son.”  Then he looks at John, the only one who is here with me and says, “Here is your mother.”  Even at this horrible moment, he is still trying to take care of us.  Now is says that he is thirsty and I want to bring him something, but they will not let me. He looks at me one last time and then looks at the sky as if searching for something.  We all look up as well.  I don’t see a thing.  I hear a gasp and I get up so I can be just a little closer.  He says, “It is finished.” And it is.

            I fall into the arms of John and we weep together.  We stay until they take his body from the cross. They let me hold him one last time.  While my grief feels overwhelming, more memories started to flood in while I hold him.  I remember the people who followed him.  I remember the people he cured and how they looked at him. He turned water into wine. He opened the eyes of the blind. He even brought a man back to death. 

            Then I hear his voice so clearly I think he must still be alive, but he remains limp in my arms.  I hear him say, “‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’?  You will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.”  He was always saying things like that…things that no one really understood.  But those words come to me now with renewed clarity.  Maybe my pain will turn into joy. My pain will turn to joy.  I say that over and over as I watch them carry my boy away.