When we encounter suffering, we sometimes plead with God, asking what we have done to deserve such pain. But when we look at Mary, we realize even she who was entirely innocent and pure was asked to endure great suffering and sorrow. Our suffering is not a punishment for wrongdoing; it is a gift, even if it doesn’t feel that way in the moment. We are being asked to share in Calvary with Jesus and Mary, who are alongside us; that solidarity is answer enough to our questioning hearts.
We can acknowledge our sorrows and share them with Mary—we don’t have to pretend that everything is okay, or that living the Christian life means we’re always happy all the time. And she will show us that we are not alone in our sorrow. She shows us how to suffer well, to embrace the Cross. Our Lady’s strength and trust were shown through her steadfastness in suffering, through her Seven Sorrows.
Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
and you yourself a sword will pierce
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
When Mary heard Simeon’s prophecy, though it filled her with sorrow, she knew it was part of God’s plan, and she knew He would give her the grace to bear the difficult times ahead—even if she couldn’t imagine how. She was able to savor the sweetness of her infant Son’s presentation at the temple while at the same time receiving the bitter news that suffering lay ahead. Her joy and sorrow mixed together as she reflected on both the great love she had for her Son and the cruel suffering He would inevitably face.
Even the beautiful things we experience in this life are tinged with sorrow because we live in a fallen world. But, thanks to Jesus and Mary, we don’t have to be afraid of experiencing that pain and suffering. All our experiences, both bitter and sweet, have meaning when we place them before God. We have Mary at our side to guide us in her footsteps, following Jesus to the foot of the Cross and through to Resurrection morning.
1. Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, The Madonna in Sorrow / PD-US
2. Carlo Dolci, Mater dolorosa / PD-US