"Woman, Behold Thy Son" (John 19:26-27)
by Jenny Lisiecki, t.o. carm.
Living today as Christians we need to freely embrace the reality of loss, and the necessity of pain as part of our human existence. Can we offer compassion to others, if we have not felt the sting of loss ourselves?
Many mothers lie awake at night worried, waiting for the return of their children no matter what their age. All too often comes the dreaded phone call that summons them to the emergency room, jail, or possibly the morgue.
Mary's sufferings were great because they too were caused by her love for her son. As she stood at the foot of the Cross looking at her Son, the sword that was to pierce her heart had struck its final blow.
As a mother did she think, how is it possible that I can stand here and watch my son die? Oh, how my arms ache to hold this child now. I see those hands that healed so many and now are nailed so viciously to the wood.
On each side of my son are two criminals hanging beside him saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." But the other criminal rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God? We are getting what we deserve for our crimes, but this man has done nothing wrong." Then he turned and said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom" (Luke 23: 39-42).
My son's life is almost ended and yet he finds it in his heart to forgive this criminal. He can hardly breathe, yet he sacrifices even his breath as he turns and says, "Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
He turns and sees Mary his mother, and all the love she had in her heart went out to him. He then looks to John and back to Mary and says, "Woman, behold your son, " then looking at John, he says, "Behold your mother" (John 19: 26-27).
And from that hour Mary became our Mother as well. It is precisely because the Blessed Mother was willing to love so totally and so deeply that she was able to accept this final suffering. Today, over 850 inmates from all over the United States have consecrated themselves to Mary and have asked her to be their Mother.
Here is a testimony from an inmate in Texas:
I am a new member of the Militia of the Immaculata, consecrated to the Immaculate Virgin Mary on January 1, 2003. I am a prisoner in a Texas penitentiary, a place that has been my residence for almost a decade of my life. My cell over looks a large recreation yard, miles and miles of razor wire, gun pickets, and an industrial complex. Each early morning, I am awakened by sparrows, non-descript little birds that come with a wakeup call to ask for a few bits of cracker. And so my day begins, prayerfully, with a great deal of joy that even here in prison God looks out over us and cares for us; individually, and uniquely.
When I think about St. Maximilian Kolbe, I think about how this special priest was incarcerated for no other crime other than being a servant of God. I, on the other hand, am incarcerated for committing a terrible crime.
His life is a challenge to me as an example and a call to reach out to those who are oppressed around me, even if their oppression be within their own selfish motives or addictions. I know how important it is, for others reached out to me.
Though I was raised a Catholic, I did not live as one until last year when I was confirmed by Bishop Alvaro Corrada del Rio of Tyler, Texas. Confirmed as Paul Miki, I considered well the words of St. Paul: "Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you might not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood" (Hebrews 12:3-4).
The daily battle is real here in prison, as is the call to purity, the call of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Pray for our struggle against sin. Thank you for being fellow servants in Jesus and Mary.