The Exaltation of the Holy Cross. September 14th 2014.
Nm 21:4-9; Phil 2:6-10; Jn 3:13-17
Beholding our Mother
Have we ever pondered why Jesus choose to reveal Mary to us as our Mother only a few moments before He died on the Cross? We have no doubt that in these words, “Son, behold your Mother,” Jesus was offering His beloved Mother to us as His gift to us. The moment of death is a solemn moment when words are spoken with deep reflection and intent. For those of us who may argue that Jesus did not intend His words literally, remember that dying men do not make figurative statements! Jesus really gave us His Mother to be our own Mother also.
But why offer us this gift at such a painful time of His earthly journey? Why didn’t He entrust us to her as our Mother when she exhibited the power of her intercessory prayer and obtained the best wine for the wedding guests at the wedding at Cana? Why not when she was praised by the woman in the crowd in LK 11:27? Why wait until these dark moments on Calvary to affirm that we really have a Mother in the Virgin of Nazareth?
The answer lies in the fact that the full revelation of God’s love for us took place at Calvary. It was at Calvary that the Father’s love was fully revealed to us in the definitive gift of His only begotten Son: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” It was at the painful moment of the Cross that a Roman Centurion accepted this divine revelation and exclaimed about Jesus, “Truly this man was a Son of God.” (Mk 15:39) It was at the height of the Passion that the repentant thief saw revealed in his suffering companion on the Cross the one whose love was deeper than his sins and could transport him into Paradise, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”(Lk 23:43) Indeed, God’s love is fully revealed to us at Calvary.
Likewise, Jesus chose these painful moments of His agony on the Cross to show us the depth of His love for us and His desire to make us one with Him: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (Jn 12:32) It is also at the Cross that we enter into that new life that Christ won for us by His self-offering on the Cross: “The Son of Man must be lifted up so that those who believe in Him may have eternal life.” In completion of His revelation of His love for us, Jesus declares to the beloved disciple and to all of us redeemed by His blood that Mary is indeed our spiritual Mother: “Son, behold your Mother.” The gift of Mary to us cannot be grasped outside God’s revelation of His love for us.
So Mary was declared to be our Mother at the climax of God’s revealing His love for us. What does this mean for us in our spiritual life? Basically, we cannot know the Lord as God of love without a participation in the suffering of the Cross. Deep experiential knowledge of God’s love for us comes only through the suffering of the cross.
The Israelites in the First Reading knew God as their deliverer from bondage in Egypt but did not know that God’s love extended to giving them life in the wilderness. Failing to grasp this divine love, it was so easy for them to “complain against God and Moses” and grow dissatisfied with the manna. Through the suffering of mortal snake bites, they repented from their grumbling and begged Moses to intercede for them. God proved His will to give them life, not just through food and water, but through their act of obedience to Him by looking at the bronze serpent: “Whoever looked at the bronze serpent lived.”
The letter to the Hebrews shows us that Jesus Christ in His humanity experienced the full power of His Father’s love to bring Him victory over death and sin only after he “humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on the Cross.” Jesus was always loved by the Father and He knew it well. But in and through this act of loving obedience that climaxed at the Cross, the Father “greatly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name.” It is also through the Cross that Jesus Christ experienced the depth of His Father’s love for Him.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, how deeply do we know God and His love for us? As long as we are trying to avoid the suffering of this life, our knowledge of God remains only a head knowledge from our prayers or studies. A deep experiential knowledge of God only links our heads to our hearts when we are open to the suffering of the Cross. If we are going to constantly grow in our grasp of God’s unconditional love for us, then we must be willing to embrace the sufferings of the Cross and let Jesus imprint this mysterious love deep in our hearts.
As we celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross today, we are reminded of the triumph of God’s love for us over our sufferings and even our sins. We are reminded that Christ’s victory through the Cross was the work of divine love imprinted deep in His human heart. If we too are going to be victorious over suffering, sin and death, then we must be willing to be close to the Cross too and to grow in our intimate knowledge of God’s love. A mere intellectual knowledge of this love is not enough; it must reach the depths of our hearts and this is only through a sharing in the suffering of the Cross.
This is another reason why Mary comes into the picture as our spiritual Mother prominently at Calvary. She is the one who grew in her intimate knowledge of God through her sufferings and trials. By embracing the hardship of her life, be it the painful prophecy of Simeon or the loss of Jesus for three days or the time of exile in Egypt, or her painful journey with Him to Calvary, Mary let God constantly expand her heart with His mysterious love for her. God’s love for us is perfectly printed on her heart and she wishes to share with us this gift that she gained by choosing to stand close to Jesus to the end.
Jesus on the Cross offers Mary to us because He knows that we need her presence and example. Like the beloved disciple, we have seen others abandon the Lord Jesus Christ after starting so well in His love and service. We too can grow discouraged with our own weaknesses. Sharing in His suffering seems beyond our ability. Let us recall then the very first stanza of the sequence Stabat Mater:
At the cross her station keeping
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Yes! Mary stood “close to the Jesus to the last.” If we want to experience Jesus’ deep love for us too by sharing in His sufferings and staying close to Him to the last like Mary did, then let us do what Jesus asks us to do – Behold your Mother!
Glory to Jesus!!! Honour to Mary!!!