Rev. Daniel W. Murphy
The image in the Gospel passage from John today speaking of Mary and the other women standing before the dying Jesus on the cross brings me back to the NY World’s Fair in 1965 as I visited the Vatican pavilion in which the main feature was the Michelangelo PIETA. Many years later I had the privilege of seeing this work of art in its normal place at St. Peter’s Basilica. We cannot help but be deeply moved by the image of the mother holding her dead son in her arms and very much feel the brokenness in her heart.
That same image of Mary today brings me back to another time in my life I will always remember: Sept 11, 2001. My youngest brother, Ed, died that day at the World Trade Center. Embedded in my memory is the anguish my mom felt at the tragic loss of her youngest son that horrible day. I came to realize one of the deepest wounds any human can feel has to be the loss of a child, especially in such a tragic way. It could certainly lead one to feel forsaken by God.
Yesterday at the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we also focused on the agony of the cross and the God Man Jesus embracing and taking onto Himself the pain and anguish of sin and the human condition. Yet as we hear in the last line of yesterday’s Gospel from John: “GOD DID NOT SEND HIS SON INTO THE WORLD TO CONDEMN THE WORLD BUT THAT THE WORLD MIGHT BE SAVED THROUGH HIM”. As Mary looked on her son on the cross, she had to know that He was experiencing the deepest pain and God forsakenness any human could endure, as we pray in the Apostle’s Creed, we hear the words: “Jesus descended into hell”. Pope Benedict XVII once referred to that line by saying that Christ has entered into the deepest sense of feeling forsaken by God any human can endure reminding us that our God does know our pain and loss and journeys with us through these moments.
As I look back on my mom in those days after 9/11 and the many years after I know she found strength to go on aware that, in spite of the deepest pain of losing a child, she knew our God embraces the deepest of human pain and enters into that journey with us to lead us to hope and new life.
Just as we look at the crucifix in our churches, we, as Mary did, believe that our God enters deeply into our human pain and empowers us to find redemption in suffering.
Rev. Daniel W. Murphy is a retired priest of the Diocese of Paterson. He is a product of eight years of Jesuit education and assists with the retreat programs of Xavier HS in NYC held at Loyola.