Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Behold, Our Mother

The connection between a mother and her son can be a very special relationship. I know in my own experience my mother and I have shared a bond that has been unique among relationships I've had with people. I was the oldest of the children in my family and was the one that because of my place as the oldest often set the tone for the other children. I was the one that was made example of as I worked through the highs and lows of my childhood and adolescence. I was also the one my mother shared her pains and sufferings with. I was the one my mother shared her confidences with, the stories she didn't easily tell others, the secrets that she could bear no longer, all the bits and pieces of her life that made her who she was as a person, and by association made me who I am.

My mother has always symbolized two things to me - strength and faith. She has gone through a lot in her life. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and her stepfather was abusive both verbally and physically. She fell in love with my father and married him shortly after graduating high school and turning 18. She wasn't going to stay in the house with my stepfather any longer than she had to. My father came from a very poor family, worked at the plant where his older brothers worked. He drank hard as they did and became an alcoholic. At his worst he could be abusive and distant. As it turned out marriage wasn't much of an escape for my mother.

But she never gave up. She never lost her faith. When I think of people I've known in my life that have been people of great strength and faith my mother would be at the top of the list. She endured a marriage that most would have given up on and walked away from. She never gave up on God, even though many events in her life would have led others to question God's role if not existence.

Through it all she persevered. She stayed because of us children. She knew the pain of divorce and how it had affected her life. She stayed in a marriage that was at one time a shambles and has now seen that marriage become a relationship of love and respect as my father dealt with his problems and fought his way out of the clutches of alcoholism and found his way back to God. She has seen her children grow and lead successful lives and reward her and my father with grandchildren that love them completely and without the reservations and baggage that her own children carried with them.

Having had the experience of my mother in my life and how much she has meant to me it is easy for me to have a sense of how important Christ's mother was to him, and he to her. It is easy for me to understand her special place in all he did and all he continues to do. It is easy for me to understand why we all should look to her for guidance and strength. As she grieved at the foot of the cross Christ said to the beloved disciple "Behold, your mother." In that gesture Christ wasn't just turning over the care of his mother to the disciple. Christ was all about symbolism, and deeper meaning in everything he said and did. In that moment Christ speaks to all of us: "Behold, YOUR mother." OUR mother. Mother of us all. The mother we can turn to in our times of doubt and shame. The mother we can turn to when life doesn't make sense and we need to feel the safe embrace of her loving arms. The mother that is always there to pick us up when we fall, wipe away our tears, and send us on our way again.

"Behold, your son." Christ also turns over the care of all God's children to His mother in that moment. While His work as a man was nearly finished, Mary's work and relationship with us was just beginning. Because a mother's work is never ended. A mother's place of importance with her children is never diminished. Even when not physically present the spiritual presence of our mother looms large and active in our lives. She is always available to us to talk with, to share our troubles with as well as our joys, to seek out for security and guidance in our darkest hours. Just as Christ surely did.

When I think of that scene at the foot of the cross I imagine the disciple and Mary clinging to each other in love and mutual support. Surely it was their darkest hour. And that's the relationship we need to seek out with Mary. A relationship of love and support, a warm, passionate embrace, a relationship built on great trust and faith. On a day when we celebrate Mary under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows, we can reach out to her as she reaches out to us - desiring to be enfolded in an embrace of love and faith. Mary, the mother of God. Behold, our mother.

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