Mary Receives the Body of Jesus
The death of Jesus was horrendous and beyond anything imaginable. In the PIETA we have a picture of Jesus at the foot of the Cross laid in the arms of His mother. Thirty three years earlier, Mary held a beautiful warm baby boy in her arms albeit in a rough stable with an ox and ass as companions. Little did Mary think then, that one day the same beautiful baby, would, as an adult with a torn and mangled body need to be cradled in the same arms.
The scene on Calvary was different from the stable at Bethlehem; St Joseph and the animals were not present instead at a distance there was a crowd some curious and some in prayerful silence.
Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though in secret, because of his fear of the Jews had asked Pilate for the body as the Sabbath was very near. Mary like any mother would do, wept tears of desolation and anguish as she gazed on the mutilated body of her Son. She kissed his blood stained and bruised face as she recalled happy memories of former days when Jesus took His first steps and ate his first spoonful of solid food. She will also have recalled the day he got lost and was eventually found in the Temple preaching as a young teenager to confused listeners. Maybe he also had good and bad days as a helper to Joseph the carpenter.
According to tradition Jesus gave Mary a strange answer at the Marriage Feast when she said “they have no wine”. He was always a puzzle to her but nothing could have prepared her for meeting Him carrying the Cross and now finally His dead body in her arms. If He had not been so vocal about social issues and He did not heal on the Sabbath things might have turned out differently. The life of every human being is one of pain, struggle and hard times and for Mary hers was no different.
If we look at how Michelangelo has expressed Mary’s suffering in the Pieta we get a vision of her pain and amazing strength with immense love shown in her face and posture…her wide broad shoulders…her generous lap and her huge sensitive eyes. The Pieta is a powerful lesson on how much love there is in suffering.
Let us give a little time to reflect on the pain in our world and indeed our own personal pain and see if we can embrace it with the compassionate eyes of Mary. Each day the story of our broken world comes into our siting room through the media. Are we, like Mary able to gather the pain, isolation, rejection and desolation of so many human beings. A few days ago the BBC showed a clip of rows and rows of small babies in a bunker, who are now orphans and victims of the war in Ukraine.
Who will be there to tell them stories of their parents and families whom they will never know. The plight of those babies is too challenging for comfort. Those little babies represent the isolation of millions of people who have to flee the security of home and find refuge in unfamiliar places away from their own language and culture.
Does Mary in the Pieta offer us any insight into how we might understand and embrace the suffering of the world today. Yes, it does have a powerful meaning because when we open our hearts in compassion to all whose story we know or those who lean on us for strength and courage we are another Mary holding the mangled body of Jesus covered in blood.
I remember finding three young homeless girls with little clothing on the side of the road in Nairobi. Through the grace of God we were able to assist them and educate them into a secure future. The eldest was seen through education to third level and beyond by an Irish family whose son came out to help with IT. The same family had relatives in Washington who knew President Obama, who in turn gave her a job in the White House from 2009 to 2010. Thereafter she returned to Nairobi to work in the Judiciary. From the street in Nairobi to the White House and back to the Judiciary.
God’s ways are mysterious! We are all called to be there to enable someone to carry the Cross We just have to be alert and see the world with eyes of compassion. Maybe we need to reflect for a moment and give thanks for the times when we were like Joseph of Arimathea and allowed another person to place his/her burden on our shoulders.
Mary you were there before me
You opened wide your arms to receive the bruised body of your son
Today I think of all the mothers, whose sons are long lost
Ill and ravaged by disease or addiction of some kind
Help me to draw inspiration from your broad shoulders
And keep my heart open brimming over with compassion
And courage to embrace the brokenness in life around me.
Sr Assumpta 23/3/2022