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Our Lady of Sorrows – September 15th
Readings: Heb 5:7-9; Jn 19:25-27
First reading (Heb 5:7-9): 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus[a] offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.
Gospel (Jn 19:25-27): Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
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.
I. THEME: Understanding God’s love for us through important events so that we know how to celebrate these events with love.
Yesterday we solemnly celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross to thank Jesus’ immense love for us expressed through his sacrificial death on the Cross. Today, the Church wants us to celebrate Our Lady of Sorrows to thank Mary’s sacrificial love for Jesus and for us, because Jesus’ suffering is also Mary’s suffering. She is the one who is considered as the martyr without pouring out blood to witness for God. Right from the beginning of Jesus’ life when the Holy Family dedicated the Child Jesus in the Temple, the elder Simeon foretold what shall happen to Jesus and Mary: “34 And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed– 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul– to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed”” (Luke 2:34-35). Mary remembered this prophecy and meditating it all her life, from the Annunciation to Jesus’ death on the Cross.
Today readings concentrate on the reason of the human salvation. In the first reading the author of the Letter to the Hebrews emphasized Jesus’ obedience to His Father is the reason of the human salvation, “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” In the Gospel, Jesus showed the depth of his love for humankind by accepting his sacrificial death on the Cross. Not only that, but he also devised a wonderful exchange between His mother, the Blessed Mary, and his beloved disciple who represents for the Church. Both are courageously standing at the foot of the Cross to show their love for Christ.
1/ First reading: He was heard for his godly fear.
Throughout the Letter to the Hebrews, the author heavily stressed on the ideal model for the faithful to follow who is Jesus. He is the perfect model of the High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek because he offered his perfect sacrifice only once and now, he is standing at the right hand of God to intercede for us forever. In today passage, the author illustrates Jesus as the ideal model for obedience to God.
1.1/ Jesus’ sufferings and death led Him to glory:
(1) Jesus obeyed His Father in all things: People often doubt about the one they trust because there are many reasons for their doubting, either they doubt about the love which others have for them, or doubt about the authority which others have is not enough to protect them in adversity.
Jesus completely trusts His Father because he believes in his Father’s love for him, and especially of his Father’s power which no one can resist or overcome it. Because of these, he courageously accepts all sufferings even death. He knows his Father shall vindicate and give him the glory over all powers in heaven, on earth and under the earth.
(2) He trusted His Father’s plan of salvation: Jesus strongly believes in his Father’s plan of salvation. In John, Jesus knew the hour which he is died on the Cross, is also the hour which this plan of salvation is completed. Therefore, he did not fear, but wished this hour to come for his Father’s will is done.
1.2/ Through faith in Jesus, people shall inherit salvation:
(1) There is no other way for people to have salvation: According to Saints John and Paul, there is no way people can have salvation except to believe in Christ. Some people advertise that salvation can be achieved by learning and keeping of the laws. If this is possible, then Jesus’ coming, and his sacrifice shall be meaningless. Since no one can perfectly keep the law; therefore, all need Jesus to die for their sins to inherit salvation.
(2) Jesus is the source and the reason for people’s salvation: Jesus knew the hour he died on the Cross, shall bring about the salvation for people in the past, at present and in the future. He needs only offering his sacrifice once for all. So, no matter how painful of the Passion and the Death are, he is willingly to accept so that he will bring countless souls to the Father.
2/ Gospel: “Woman, behold, your son.” “Behold, your mother.”
2.1/ Those who are faithful standing at the foot of the cross.
(1) The four women: At the foot of the cross, there were only four women; and three of them have the name Mary. Let us try to identify these four persons. First is the blessed Mary whom the evangelist called her “his mother.” Second, the author called her “his mother’s sister,” but not identified her name. If we compare with the Synoptics, this person is Salome, the mother of James the younger and Joseph (Mk 15:30, 16:1). The third one was called “Mary the wife of Clopas.” Some identified this Clopas with Cleopas, one of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Lk 24:18); but this hypothesis is not well supported. The last one was called “Mary Magdalene.” She came from the town called Magdala whom Jesus healed from seven devils (Lk 8:2).
(2) There is only one stood by the cross with the four women whom the author called “the disciple whom he (Jesus) loved.” Who is this disciple? There are at least two opinions. Some say this one is John, his disciple. Why the author wants to conceal his identity? It may because he is humble. This opinion is accepted by the most. Some say it can be anyone who recognized Christ, is loved by him. The purpose why John writes his gospel is for everyone to recognize Christ and believe in him; therefore, he would like to express the idiom “the disciple there whom he loved,” to indicate anyone who is loved by Jesus. There are not many who accepted this opinion.
Why is there only one stood at the foot of the cross? Many people think because all other disciples were too scared for their safety, so they ran away. Other thinks the reason why there are four women at the foot of the cross because Rome and the Sanhedrin were not worried about women as in many other nations. This opinion makes sense; but the true reason is these persons loved Jesus more than others. They stayed because they loved Jesus and would like to be with him at the last moment of his life on earth.
2.2/ The mystical exchange at the foot of the cross: Jesus did not worry about his death, but he concerned about those who are still living in the world. This is the reason why he arranged the wonderful and mystical exchange at the foot of the cross.
(1) Jesus gave his mother to people: He said to his mother: “Woman, behold, your son.” Why did Jesus use the word, “Woman,” “Gunai” in Greek here? Saint Bernard offered the interesting explanation here. Since Mary is Jesus’ mother according to the flesh because she bore and gave birth to him. So, no one can call Mary “Mother,” except Jesus. People can call Mary “Mother” because Jesus wanted them to and understanding it according to the spiritual meaning.
Some say because Jesus no longer took care of his mother, he found for her the disciple who can take care of her for him. This is not the main reason. Jesus would like his mother to become the mother of all humankind; the disciple is only the representative of all. The blessed Mary is not only the disciple’s mother; she is also the mother of all humankind.
(2) Jesus set Mary as the mother of all: He said to the disciple: “Behold, your mother.” Jesus does not only want Mary to be the mother of all, but he also wants all accept Mary as their mother, because if both sides agree to the exchange, both will benefit from it. To show his agreement, the disciple welcomed her to his house from that time on.
If one thinks according to the human standard, the exchange will benefit Mary more, because she has the disciple to take care of her. But if one thinks according to the spiritual standard, Mary will be the sorrowful mother all her life. From that time on, Mary must endure all sufferings of humankind. Many say that is the reason why the blessed mother always cried, not smiled, when she appeared in most of her apparition. Finally, we can say that this wonderful exchange at the foot of the Cross shall benefit humankind more than for Mary, because as the mother of humankind, she will have compassion and effectively intercede for people during their time of sufferings and temptation.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Obedience to God like Jesus should be the ideal model for our life to imitate because no one loves us like Him and has power over all things like Him.
– Glory can only be achieved through sufferings, the more one must go through sufferings the more glory that one shall has. As Jesus, we should wish to endure more sufferings for others to reaching salvation.
– Each time we look up on the Cross, we should remember Jesus’ wonderful exchange so that we know how to love God, Mary and all of our brothers and sisters. All of us become members of God’s households and have a duty to help others in needed moments.