“He’s not going to make it much longer,” Karen said with tears in her eyes. As we stood together in the church’s food pantry, where she both volunteers and receives food, she explained to me that her adult son is losing a battle with cancer. She described his fading health, the reaction of her grandson to his father’s sickness, and the suffering experienced by the whole family. We talked and hugged one another. As we began to part ways, Karen said, “I have been praying to Mary a lot recently. I think she must know how it feels to watch your own son suffer and die.”
Karen’s experiences cause her to view the Passion through the eyes of Mary, a parent struggling with the unbearable burden of watching one’s child suffer. As I think of Mary at the foot of the cross, I am stunned, as if for the first time, by the tragedy and pain of Jesus’ death, a pain experienced by Jesus as well as by those who loved him.
Mary knelt devastated at the foot of the cross, and God, the Divine Parent, grieved there as well. For God was not only with Mary in her suffering, but God’s own heart was breaking at the suffering of God’s child, Jesus. God did not merely sympathize with Mary; God experienced the pain firsthand.
God suffering on the cross, God mourning at the foot of the cross. Both reveal one of the most deeply moving and comforting truths I know about the Divine: despite our position in suffering, God is with us. While through Lent I am confronted with my own sin and mortality, I cling to the promise of God’s presence, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Loving, Compassionate God, be with those who are experiencing suffering of all kinds. Please bring peace where there is turmoil, relief where there is pain, and comfort where there is fear. May the promise of Easter’s triumph and the peace of the presence of God be with us now and always. Amen.