The Mystery of Jesus’ Death on the Cross

Today we look at the fifth and last Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary.

The suffering of Jesus on the cross is, like all human suffering, shared suffering. That’s why Mary is honored as “Our Lady of Sorrows.” Some people imagine this detracts from Jesus’ suffering. Evangelicals reserve this sort of language exclusively for Mary. Imagine an Evangelical funeral for the parents of a son killed in Iraq in which the pastor points to the grieving parents and says, “God was the one who gave these parents their child and it was he who sent their son to die for the freedom of the Iraqi people. They didn’t sacrifice anything. They merely assented to be a part in God’s plan.”

Weirdly heartless, no? And yet, so often when it comes to Mary, some Evangelicals are sometimes so strangely eager to exclude her from the drama of salvation that they end up saying (as an Evangelical correspondent of mine did) that, “It is not the people that we should honor, including Mary, but rather God who has given people gifts. In Mary’s case God gave her a child, who would be the savior of the world. Her ‘may it be to me as you have said,’ is merely an assent to what God was doing through her. God made the salvation of the world possible through Jesus, and Mary merely assented to be a part in God’s plan.”

Nobody ever talks that way about any sacrifice any ordinary person makes. In all other cases, we can grasp the fact that, while God is the author of all things, our sacrifices and choices really matter, too—by the grace of God. The only time people talk this way is when Evangelicals dehumanize Mary and dismiss the sword that pierced her heart so they can talk as though she was utterly irrelevant to the Incarnation and Passion of Christ, instead of the one who was, in fact, more intimately bound up with him than any person who ever lived.

Mary, I’m sorry I dismissed your agonies. Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice and for the courage of those you made the members of your divine family. Help me to have that courage as well, when my cross (or, worse still, the cross of one I love) is to be borne.


One Response

  1. As the daughter of a convert to Catholicism, I know what a “stumbling block” Mary can be but also how with time some of those from other Christian traditions can see things differently – with time my father started praying the Rosary and was buried with it in his hands, but it did not happen overnight. When it did happen, however, he knew more about Mary than a lot of cradle Catholics as a result of his questioning journey. Thank you for another great reflection. Because of my family history I love reading how other converts to Catholicism view things – they do not accept most things unquestioningly in my experience and are the richer for it.

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