Aim: To understand how sufferings accompanied Mary throughout her life, especially in circumstances connected to Jesus.
Pierced soul (Lk 2:28-35): Simeon took the child Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentilesand for glory to your people Israel”. And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “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”.
In a sea of sorrow (LEW 160): “Eternal Wisdom suffered from all kinds of people […]; in fact from everyone. Even his Blessed Mother’s presence (at Calvary) added painfully to his sufferings for, as he was dying, he saw her standing at the foot of the cross engulfed in a sea of sorrows”.
Like, and even more than, any human being, Mary experienced sufferings throughout her life. Tradition attributes to her “seven sorrows”: Simeon’s prophecy at the presentation of Jesus in the temple (Lk 2:28-35), the flight into Egypt (Mt 2:13-15), the disappearance of the boy Jesus in Jerusalem (2:41-52), the road to Calvary (Jn 19:17), the crucifixion (Jn 19:18), the removal from the cross (Jn 19:38), and the entombment (Jn 19:41-42).
To these circumstances, we may add other events and situations that caused pain to Mary. Let us imagine the sense of rejection she must have felt in Bethlehem, at the time of Jesus’ birth, when “there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7). Let us imagine her pain when she came to know about the massacre of the infants by the hand of Herod (Mt 2:16-18). And let us imagine her humiliation and distress when she saw the people of Nazareth rejecting Jesus and even trying to “hurl him off the cliff” (Lk 4:28-30).
In the midst of her sufferings and crosses, Mary stands out as a “woman of strength” (cf. MC 37). Such strength finds its origin and ground in her heart, accustomed to “treasure and ponder over everything” (Lk 2:19.51) in the likeness of the “wisest people” of Israel.
In the gospel of Luke, the wisdom activity of “pondering” is described with the Greek term “symbàllein”, the active infinitive verb of “symbàllo”, which means “to put together”, reflect on and assess the events of life, especially the most unusual ones, in order to regain a sense of inner peace and to find meanings and insights for personal or communal growth. In this regard, talking about Mary’s perplexity at the time of her annunciation, St. Ambrose writes: “Mary, who was initially disturbed by the appearance of the angel, a little later – due to her habit of keeping and pondering everything in her heart – remained calm and peaceful while paying attention to the many strange signs and events enfolding around her”.
Personal Reflection and Sharing
What do I habitually do when I am faced with crosses?
What are the wisest and the worst reactions that I can retrieve from my personal history?
How helpful or unhelpful are my reactions both to me and to the people around me?