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Homily for September 15, 2022 – The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO

The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

Today’s feast is a kind of sorrowful mystery in the liturgical year. “We honor the compassionate love of the Virgin Mary”, says one of the prayers, and the Gospel shows us the suffering side of love. The love between Jesus and Mary deepened the suffering of both as she stood beside the cross of Jesus. Because of her sorrow, his sorrow is limitless.

He might have spared himself this. But he never spared himself the inevitable deepening of every experience to those who love, who have the courage to face that responsibility without flinching. He taught love, and he is love, and he will not shut his eyes to his mother, or spare his heart from her whose own heart was pierced at the sight of him. As they were trudging up the hillside, he might have asked the beloved disciple to take his mother home, but he loved her too much to disregard her desire to stay with him to the very end. His mother would suffer because of him, and he would not be able to comfort her. He would have to leave her to his friend, and it is all because he loved her that she would have to suffer.

This kind of love is a sorrowful mystery that surpasses understanding. Who but her Son should comfort Our Lady in her sorrows? Surely he should. But his hands are nailed. He was helpless – helpless to help Our Lady in her Sorrows. That is the measure of his love for us. He knew it would comfort her if she could somehow ease his sorrow, but he did not spare his own mother, but gave her up for us all, saying, “Behold your mother”.

There is some divine paradox here, some sorrowful mystery by which those who love more, suffer more on earth, and she who loved most like Christ had to suffer most like Christ. She had to see it all, to hear the crowd, the blasphemies, the insults, see the wounds, and suffer it all in herself because she loved him so much: her very love was made to be a sorrow to them both. And yet she did not cease to love, any more than her Son did, of whom it was said, “He loved his own who were in the world, and loved them to the end”.

But the love of this Son is perfect love, unselfish, unpossessive. It is hard for us to understand unselfish love because we so rarely experience it – the kind that can say, “Son, behold your mother!”. But there are times when we too are required to commit those who are closest to us to the care of others, to keep our hands nailed to the cross of our duty, to keep our feet nailed in the way God has chosen, in spite of longing to be somewhere else.

Only Christ’s life in us, his Body and Blood, can purify our hearts and make such unpossessive love possible for us. May our hearts be like Mary’s at the cross, so opened that they cannot close again, but must include everyone for whom Christ died.