(c) 2022 Josephine Lombardi
John’s Gospel includes a moving moment, another mystery, between Jesus on the cross and his mother, standing at the foot of the cross with Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and John, the beloved disciple: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27a).
This mystery takes our breath away. How could this happen? Who is responsible? How do Jesus’ friends feel? How does his mother manage such pain? Do those who shouted, “Crucify him!” feel any regret? Even though the centurion remarked, “Certainly this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47), those who were supposed to defend him abandoned him. When someone is taken from us prematurely, or due to the sins of others, such as through an act of violence, we find ourselves in shock, disillusioned and traumatized.
Crucifixion is a brutal form of corporal punishment and was used only on non-Roman citizens, because it was such a dishonourable kind of execution. Jesus’ loved ones must have wailed at the sight of his pain, reduced to thoughts of despair and confusion. Mary is left in the land of the living with her own emotional crucifixion. “And a sword will pierce your own soul too, ” Simeon had said to her at the beginning. Jesus is crucified and Mary’s heart is crushed.
Grief is an emotional response that we must work through. We feel it in our bodies and spirits. The raw moments that follow a death are paralyzing. Death separates us from our loved ones, leaving us with the challenge to trust and believe that the separation is temporary. Thankfully, our faith reminds us that we will see our loved ones again. St. Paul writes: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died,” (1 Thess. 4: 13-14). This passage gives hope to the bereaved. The challenge becomes managing the intense waves of grief as they overcome us with thoughts of discouragement. No doubt, the love of friends and family, together with God’s grace, accompanies us as we work through our pain.
For every person who suffers the brutality of an agonizing death, there is another person who suffers the agony of a pierced heart–the ripple effect of trauma and pain.
Let us pray for all people dying in great pain, in need of proper pain control and consolation. Let us pray for their loved ones that they be strengthened with God’s grace, consoled by the hope of the resurrection.