Dear Mother Mary: Part Three
A prayer by Father Stanley Plutz SVD
As Father Plutz’s prayer reflection continues, he ponders the ministry and passion of Jesus.
Baptism of Jesus
Then one day, news came that cousin John had come out of the desert and into public life. He had begun to preach repentance so that the people would turn from their sins and back to God. As a sign that people had repented of their sins, John poured cleansing water from the Jordan River over their heads.
Jesus reported the news to you, his mother. Mother and son talked the matter over and reflected on the Scripture references to the herald of the messiah and to the messiah himself. It was decided by both of you that Jesus should go and visit John.
Mary, you realized that it was time that your son would leave you to carry out the mission for which he was born. Through reflection and prayer, you prepared yourself for Jesus leaving you and for being alone.
After some days, Jesus said goodbye and left. When Jesus was away, you prayed, did your work of keeping the house clean, and visited and cared for the sick persons in the neighborhood. Though separated from each other physically, the thought of each other was always present in the minds of both of you. Your affection for each other kept growing all the more when you were separated.
After 40 days of fasting and enduring the temptations of Satan in the desert, Jesus came home to visit you, his mother. The visit gave you great joy. Since Jesus looked somewhat haggard, you prepared some of his favorite dishes for him.
Later, Jesus would bring friends—that is, his recently recruited disciples—when he came home for a visit. You not only welcomed Jesus but also his disciples. You adopted the friends of Jesus as your sons.
You would prepare delicious meals for them. On one such visit, you were happy to inform them of a wedding to take place in the neighboring village of Cana in October and that all off them—you, Jesus and his disciples—were invited.
A few days before the wedding, you went to Cana to help with the preparations. The mother of the bride, the bride herself, and the other women welcomed you. They enjoyed your cheerful disposition as you worked with them.
When the guests arrived a few days later, Jesus and his disciples were with them. You welcomed them and served them. As the days passed, the newlyweds and their guests were enjoying one another’s company and delicious food and drink during the weeklong celebration. You noticed at one point that the wine was almost gone.
What an embarrassment the young couple would experience with the week of celebration only half over. What to do? You offered a prayer to God and then courageously approached Jesus entreating him saying, "They have no wine."
At first, you were puzzled over Jesus’ response: "What is this concern of yours to me? My hour has not yet come."
You reflected that your son had not yet begun to work miracles, but you believed that he could. You had faith in him that he was not only your son but also the Son of God and had the power to work miracles.
Perhaps an occasion such as this was needed, an occasion to save the newlywed couple from embarrassment, as the time to begin working miracles. So you said to the waiters, "Do whatever he tells you to do."
Jesus, as we know, did take your implicit request as a sign from God his Father that the hour for him to begin to work miracles had indeed come.
When Jesus changed water into wine, Mary, you were very happy that you could help the young couple. You also learned that you had helped the disciples of Jesus to believe more firmly in him as the promised messiah who had truly come into the world.
Rejection of Jesus
After helping with the cleanup from the week of celebration, you returned home. At one of the following visits of Jesus to Nazareth, a very tragic event occurred. The leaders of the town not only rejected Jesus but tried to kill him.
You felt the rejection of your son very deeply as if those townsfolk were rejecting you as well as your son, for you were of a sensitive nature, having highly developed feelings.
What had happened? When Jesus was at Nazareth, he was invited to do the reading during the synagogue service on the Sabbath—to read from Scripture and to say a few words in comment.
In the past, the congregation praised the homily of Jesus. This time, however, the leading men and women of the town did not like Jesus referring to their lack of faith in him as a reason for not working as many miracles in Nazareth as he did in Capernaum.
Jesus had lived too ordinary a life among them for them to believe in him and accept him as the promised messiah. So he did not work many miracles among them. (He worked miracles not for show but to foster faith in him as the promised messiah. He longed to help them in their relation to God, his and their heavenly Father.)
They got so angry with him when he mentioned how God cured Naaman the Syrian and helped the widow of Sarepta in Lebanon that they grabbed him, dragged him out of the town and actually tried to kill him by throwing him headlong off the cliff on which their town was built.
The reaction of your townsfolk was too much for you, Mary, to take lightly. To remain in Nazareth with such people would be very unpleasant, so you packed a few necessary articles and left Nazareth with Jesus and went with him to Capernaum, where he had taken up his
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women
And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!
Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us sinners now
And at the hour of our death
Women Disciples of Jesus
St. Luke in his Gospel tells of a group of women who accompanied Jesus and ministered to his needs and those of his apostles. One can picture you, Mary, as the honored leader of this group whom you joined after the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth.
Following Jesus with these women, you listened to him as he taught the people. In fact, you were his best listener and most faithful disciple.
On one occasion, a woman from the crowd was so taken with the charm of Jesus and his preaching that she burst out in praise of Jesus and his mother, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!" How did that praise affect you?
And you observed your Jesus as he, in his pity, cured people of various sicknesses and deformities and drove out the devils of those possessed.
When Jesus had been about his Father’s work for about three years, he and his disciples made their way to Jerusalem. You and the holy women accompanied him. You were in Jerusalem with Jesus for Palm Sunday and the feast of Passover.
On Palm Sunday, most likely, you joined the procession from Bethany to Jerusalem and sang joyfully with the children: "Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."
When Jesus and his disciples were at the Paschal meal on Holy Thursday, were you and the holy women in an adjacent room celebrating your Paschal meal? Did Jesus send over Holy Communion?
A year or more before this solemn moment, you had been listening to the sermon of Jesus at Capernaum when he promised to institute the Holy Eucharist. He had explained that it would be his body and blood for the spiritual nourishment of those who believed in him. He and you had eagerly looked forward to this special moment. You realized that you received the same body to which you had given birth but now in sacramental form.
The Passion of Jesus
During the agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, you felt the anguish of Jesus. News arrived through the apostle John of Jesus’ arrest and trial. How your sympathy reached out to Jesus!
You had listened carefully when Jesus predicted several times his coming suffering and death in Jerusalem. You knew that it would come. Your prayers were for Jesus that he would have the strength and courage to bear all his sufferings for the salvation of all people.
You knew the writings of Isaiah the prophet. With heart and soul you were with Jesus. You kept watch with Jesus and did not incur the rebuke given to Peter, who fell asleep during the agony in the garden: "Could you not watch for an hour with me."
You could not sleep that dreadful night. John kept you posted about what was happening to your son. You learned of the trial and the death sentence pronounced against Jesus by Caiaphas, the high priest, and the Sanhedrin.
In the morning, John came to fetch you. You went with John to the judgment hall of Pilate. You were told that the chief priests and elders had brought Jesus to Pilate to ask that he be crucified.
There in the courtyard, with horror you heard the crowd cry out against your son: "Crucify him!"
Jesus had done no harm to anyone. How could these very people, some of whom perhaps he had cured, shout, "Crucify him"? You could not believe that Pilate would condemn Jesus to die after he had pronounced him innocent of any crime. But he did.
So much for Roman justice! There was no justice for Jesus. Pilate had caved in under pressure from the chief priests, elders and scribes who were jealous of Jesus. They hated him and had incited the crowd against him.
During the scourging of Jesus, you felt in compassion each blow as it struck Jesus and tore his flesh. It felt as if the blows had hit you.
In the crowning with thorns, you felt the pain and mockery inflicted on your dear son, the messiah, the Son of God.
Behold the Man! Mary, you could hardly look at your son so disfigured from the scourging and crowning was he. How your heart went out to him in sympathy! Then the cross was loaded on his bruised shoulder.
The heavy cross of wood weighed your son down. In his weakness he could not manage to carry it for long, since his enemies had not given him anything to eat or drink. How weak he must have been after loss of blood from the scourging and crowning.
He fell under the weight of the cross, as you could foresee he would in his weakened condition. Did you cry out? No, you bore all the suffering of Jesus in patience and compassion with him. You realized that all the sufferings of Jesus were in reparation for sins.
Mary, you and John hurried ahead and took up a position near where Jesus would pass. There you and Jesus met lovingly. Both of you knew that you were fulfilling the heavenly Father’s plan for the redemption of people. Silently you expressed your love; you were on the way to the crucifixion together. The soldiers roughly pushed you aside and forced your son to stumble ahead.
Mary, you suffered on Calvary as the soldiers stripped Jesus of his seamless garment which you had woven for him. You felt the pain of the tearing off of the garment sticking to the wounds
Mary, you witnessed how the soldiers threw Jesus down upon the rough wood of the cross. You felt the nails piercing the nerve centers of the hands and feet, thick long iron nails. You felt those exposed nerves causing sharp pain.
Since the spot for the nailing of the arms had not been measured correctly, the soldier stretched the arm of Jesus and pulled it out of joint to reach the hole marked for the nail. Then the soldiers forced his feet together and nailed them to the wooden cross.
You, Mother Mary, shuddered as they raised the cross to an upright position and let it thump into the hole dug for it, thus enlarging the wounds in his hand and feet as well as adding additional intense pain.
Mary, with John, you took a position near the cross as soon as the soldiers moved a short distance away. Scripture says, "She stood beneath the cross."
When you realized that Jesus was making efforts to speak, you gave full attention to him in order not to miss a word that he would pronounce. You heard Jesus forgiving those who were crucifying him: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
You realized that forgiveness of injuries, insults and rejection was typical of your son, so you too forgave those who were crucifying your son. You prayed for their conversion to faith in Jesus. You prayed that they would believe in him as the promised messiah.
Then you heard Jesus promise paradise to the repentant thief to his right. This man had defended Jesus from his companion’s reviling and then had asked Jesus to remember him when he would arrive in paradise. This thief’s belief in Jesus and his repentance of his sins gave you comfort. It was for the repentance of sinners and their salvation that your son and you were suffering.
To your surprise Jesus addressed you: "Woman, behold your son." Then he spoke to John: "Behold your mother." Who could take the place of Jesus as your son? You appreciated the thought of Jesus in providing for you.
No one, however, could substitute for Jesus. But you understood that Jesus had a much deeper meaning in the words that he spoke. You were to take John as the representative of all men, women and children. From now on, they were to be your sons and daughters.
You were to care for them as you had cared for Jesus, especially when he was a baby. You were to be the true Eve, the mother of all for whom Jesus was suffering and for whom you were suffering in compassion with him.
The word "woman" took you back in memory to paradise, to the time after Adam and Eve had sinned by disobeying God. God had promised a new Man and a new Woman who would repair the broken relationship of men and women with God and one another.
You remembered that God had addressed the serpent and said, "I will put enmities between you and the woman. You will bite at her heel while she is stamping on your head."
Mary, you were given to realize that you were the new Eve, the true mother of all the living. What a heavy responsibility to be the mother of all people: men, women and children, as you had been of Jesus.
You were realizing more and more that with Jesus you were redeeming all people from the grasp of the devil. God would be starting a new race of persons, namely, sons and daughters of Mother Mary. You were making up for the disobedience of Eve by offering your son as a sacrifice on the altar of the cross. Jesus reminded you of this when he said, "Woman, behold your son."
You stood beneath the Cross as Jesus hung upon it. There is pain in standing for a long time. You did not swoon as depicted by some artists. You did not even sit. You had to be brave to be a consolation to Jesus. Seeing that his mother was standing nearby gave Jesus comfort and helped him bear his pain.
Mother Mary, you then heard the words "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" You recognized the psalm that your son was praying.
It expressed his feeling at the moment and all that he had been enduring. He and you, too, felt that even God had seemingly forsaken him and you, that the devil and the forces of evil were prevailing.
Just imagine three hours on the cross in the highest intensity of pain. The next words that you heard were "I thirst!" Jesus suffered an intense thirst for water but even more a thirst for the salvation of people.
His throat felt as if it were filled with cotton. He had great difficulty in swallowing. What an intense thirst he suffered! He was making every effort to speak though he suffered painful cramps in his arms and chest. Mother Mary, you understood and appreciated what Jesus was suffering.
Then, Mary, you heard the words: "It is accomplished!" Jesus had suffered the agony in the garden, court trials, condemnation, scourging, the way of the cross, climaxing in the crucifixion.
In obedience to the will of his Father, he had thus made reparation for the disobedience of Adam and Eve. You had suffered with him, Mary, and thus helped him to redeem mankind.
Those three dreadful hours of Jesus hanging on the cross and all the other sufferings—physical and mental—were nearing an end. As a final prayer you heard the words of Jesus. "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."
Jesus had always done the will of his heavenly Father. He had always trusted in his heavenly Father. His Father would see him through death and bring him to the life and glory of the resurrection.
Jesus had continued to confide completely in his Father to his last breath. His head fell on his chest. He was dead. Did you, Mother Mary, cry out? No, you silently accepted the death of your son. You, too, trusted in the heavenly Father.
Then good persons took the body of Jesus down from the cross. The Pietà by Michelangelo gives a picture of Jesus’ body taken down from the cross and placed onto your lap, O Mother of Sorrows.
What grief you must have felt as you held the wounded body of Jesus in your arms, the same tender body that you had held when he was a baby. Now his precious body was torn and wounded flesh.
You could point out who inflicted which of the many wounds on your son’s body just as Mark Anthony did when he reviewed the wounds inflicted on the body of Julius Cesar.
The sins of mankind wounded Jesus. You could see those wounds inflicted by us on the sacred body of your son, and you could identify the thorn wound from his crown of thorns, which are the many uncharitable judgments inflicted in the head of Jesus.
Mother Mary, you had no money to pay for a tomb for Jesus and his burial. You depended upon God and good people, such as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to give your son a tomb and a decent burial.
What sorrow you felt as these friends of Jesus placed your son’s dead body in the tomb. You felt very helpless in not being able to do anything for preparing the sacred body of your son for burial.
Because darkness that signaled the beginning of the great Sabbath was fast falling on the faithful friends of Jesus, the men rolled the heavy stone to close the entrance of the tomb. You had to tear yourself away from the tomb. With reluctance, you departed from the tomb of your dead son. Now you did not even have the dead body of Jesus to contemplate.
Saturday, Mother Mary, you and the holy women spent weeping. Great as the ocean was your sorrow! Your tears were the outlet you had for your bitter grief.
Continue to Part Four