John 19:25-27, Friday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows
I had very bad attacks of asthma when I was a child. If it weren’t for dad who’d stay up all night to rub my chest and my back, I wouldn’t have slept at all. Dad never had asthma. But he said, he’d pray to God many times that my asthma would transfer to him, because he felt so sorry for me. The father who never had asthma seemed to suffer as much as his asthmatic son.
Don’t you find it strange that the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is dated exactly a week after her birthday? If I were in charge, I’d have spaced them much further apart. But on the other hand, Mary born without sin was not exempt from sorrow. She was no less vulnerable to suffering than anyone even if she was born without sin and remained sinless all her life…
…because some of us Catholics do a double-take on Mary on account of her sinlessness. “How could Mary commiserate with the our pain caused by sin, when God set her apart as without sin?” we sometimes wonder. I’ll always remember what my professor in Grace said in class one day. Fr. Joe Roche said, “Don’t you think it could be so much more painful for someone sinless to be a victim of the sins of other people?” I caught myself then. I tended to think of Mary’s sinlessness as a divine “force-field” protecting her from sin, where she didn’t have to do anything to fight sin. She just “remained” sinless, as a default-mode, I thought. Thanks to Fr. Roche, I remembered, where there is no freedom, there is no virtue. To remain sinless is to exercise freedom, to exert quite enormously in fact her power of will. Mary wasn’t sinless by passive default. She freely chose, everyday of her life, to not sin. So, here we are, remembering her seven or more sorrows—because sinlessness was not necessarily sorrowlessness. (Just because dad never had asthma didn’t make him any less pained than I when he saw his child sleepless and out of breath.) In fact, to keep choosing freely to not sin in spite of falling victim to the sins of other people must have caused even deeper sorrow, don’t you think? And what sorrow could be any deeper than seeing your good son felled by sinners? Fr. Roche was right. It could be much more painful to fall victim to the sins of the world, yet keep choosing to not sin.
It is only right and just that we remember our Lady’s sorrows soon after we celebrate the joy of her birth. The mother of the Lord is our mother, too. I feel comforted in believing that our many, many sorrows affect her, too. Yes, including those we bring upon ourselves because of our own sin. We have that “consolation”, don’t we? We suffer grief because we ourselves give each other grief. Our Mother and her son, they don’t have that “consolation” to fall back on in their sorrow.