Friday, October 16, 2020

Sorrow, Presence, & The Desire To Be Heard And Understood (Mary's Sixth Sorrow)

While Scripture doesn't detail the transition from Jesus' death to his burial, centuries of tradition contemplate the sorrow of Mary receiving her son's body from the cross.
I wonder if John and Mary Magdalene considered pulling Jesus' mother away until after his body was wrapped for burial; wouldn't an up-close experience with her son's tortured body overwhelm Mary? Oftentimes, if a victim's body is badly damaged, a medical examiner will protect family members with only discrete opportunities to view or touch part of the body. 
And yet, Mary holds her precious son's body, grieving at the brutality of his death, while also aware that this story isn't over. After 33 years of presence, listening with her heart, pondering one strange occurrence after another in the life of her son, Mary understands, even in her sorrow, that something bigger is happening here. 
This is the sixth post in a series on how Mary's Seven Sorrows reflect our seven basic human desires. Consider the Sixth Sorrow, Mary Receives Christ's Body from the Cross, in light of our basic human desire to be heard and understood
At Jesus' death, his followers were confused and despondent. Many had fled. Perhaps they were thinking, "What was it all for? What a waste." 
But Mary recalled Jesus' warnings about what was to come. She remembered Simeon's prophecy that her heart would be pierced. She knew Jesus had allowed himself to be scourged, mocked, crucified, killed. And she must have connected, as her Magnificat declares in Luke 1, that all of this was somehow part of God's promise to Abraham nearly 2,000 years earlier.
Even as chaos and sadness descend on the scene, Mary's intentional presence throughout Jesus' life helped her hear and understand her Son. 
Was there someone in your childhood who really listened and understood? So often, when one of my kids begins to talk, I hold up a finger of pause: "Not now… I'm busy… I'm on the phone… I'm tired… I just talked with you five minutes ago… Can you just give me a moment?" What about as an adult? Can you recall a time when someone really listened intently as you shared?
When we're repeatedly ignored or misheard, we might begin to think our concerns and ideas don't matter. We might stop trying to communicate altogether—why bother if no one's listening? We might start shouting our thoughts in an attempt to make ourselves heard. We might talk quickly without stopping, afraid to lose control of an opportunity to speak. When children feel unheard, they often resort to tantrums, yelling, flailing, and acting out. 
How do I respond when I feel unheard? Talk louder? Talk more? Talk angrily? Do I stop trying to talk altogether? 
How can I more intentionally be present to hear and understand others? As a parent, how can I help my child feel heard and understood? 
 
Pieta
Michelangelo / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Next week, we'll reflect on Mary's Seventh Sorrow, Placing Our Lord in the Tomb, in light of our basic human desire to be blessed.
You can read the first post in this series (Sorrow, Prophecy, & The Desire To Be Affirmed) here.
You can read the second post in this series (Sorrow, Escape, & The Desire To Be Safe) here
You can read the third post in this series (Sorrow, Absence, & The Desire To Be Chosen) here.
You can read the fourth post in this series (Sorrow, Suffering, & The Desire To Be Touched) here.
You can read the fifth post in this series (Sorrow, Loss, & The Desire To Be Included) here.
For more information on the seven basic human desires, check out: Seven Desires: Looking Past What Separates Us to Learn What Connects Us by Mark & Debra Laaser
*Also published October 2020 at Sacred Heart Blog.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Sorrow, Loss, & The Desire To Be Included (Mary's 5th Sorrow)

Jesus' dying words were a gift of community to those He loved most:

"When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, 

'Woman, behold, your son.'

Then he said to the disciple, 

'Behold, your mother.'" 

(John 19:26-27)


As Mary's physical motherhood ends with Jesus' death, He asks her to begin a spiritual motherhood, not just for John, but for any, for all, who might desire to slip their name into Scripture as "the disciple whom [Jesus] loved." (John wrote several opportunities in his Gospel account for readers to substitute their names as "the beloved disciple" of Jesus. See John 13:23, John 19:26, John 20:2, John 21:7, John 21:20.) 


This is the fifth post in a series on how Mary's Seven Sorrows reflect our seven basic human desires. Consider the desire to be included in light of Mary's Fifth Sorrow, Jesus Dies on the Cross. 


As Jesus died, He created a community, a spiritual family, for his disciples that continues even today. And Mary, recognizing her unique relationship with Jesus wasn't meant to be exclusive, expands her motherhood; she desires to include anyone in need of a spiritual mother.


Each of us longs to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Are there groups in your life where you know that you belong no matter what? Sometimes we pretend to be different than we are to feel included. Sometimes we exclude others to feel more secure in our own inclusion. 


Our first experience of community is within our family. As a child, did you feel included in your family? Did you feel known, welcomed, and included in your early church experiences? Sometimes a bad encounter at church makes us think God is exclusive—definitely not interested in someone like me.


But Jesus loves community. He said, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). Anywhere and anytime we get together, Jesus desires to be present and included. Do you believe God wants a friendship with you that's deeply genuine, that goes far beyond "polite-dinner-conversation" into honesty, vulnerability, and true inclusion? 


When Jesus died, Mary responded to his invitation to community by opening her heart to all as a spiritual mother. How will I respond? Are there ways I can open my heart to include others, to create communities where people feel invited and welcomed?


As a parent, how can I meet my child's need to be included?



Next week, we'll reflect on Mary's Sixth Sorrow, Our Lady Receives Christ's Body From the Cross, in light of our basic human desire to be heard and understood.

You can read the first post in this series (Sorrow, Prophecy, & The Desire To Be Affirmed) here.

You can read the second post in this series (Sorrow, Escape, & The Desire To Be Safe) here

You can read the third post in this series (Sorrow, Absence, & The Desire To Be Chosen) here.

You can read the fourth post in this series (Sorrow, Suffering, & The Desire To Be Touched) here.

For more information on the seven basic human desires, check out: Seven Desires: Looking Past What Separates Us to Learn What Connects Us by Mark & Debra Laaser.

*Also published October 2020 at Sacred Heart Blog.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Sorrow, Suffering, & The Desire To Be Touched (Mary's 4th Sorrow)

An encounter between Jesus and Mary on the way to Calvary, the place where Jesus would be crucified, is not recorded in Scripture. However, John 19 confirms Mary was present during Jesus' final suffering, and tradition has long held she met him as He carried his cross.


Jesus Meets His Mother, Mary

GualdimG / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)


What a moment of respite for Jesus, to find a caring face among an angry crowd.


It's said that the soldiers jeered at Mary when she met Jesus in his suffering; they labeled her a failure as a mother. Why else would her son be executed by the state? 


I wonder if Mary and Jesus could hear each other amidst the noise of accusations, torture, and heckling. Even so, a momentary touch between them could communicate a lifetime of truth more loudly than any words: You are a good mother. You are a good son. I believe in you. I love you. I support you.


Positive physical touch is a powerful human connection: it can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and stress; it can calm and comfort a crying baby; it can express deep sentiment when words fall short; it can bring solidarity in suffering. 


This is the fourth post in a series on the seven basic human desires (to be affirmed, safe, chosen, touched, included, blessed, heard and understood) in light of Mary's Seven Sorrows. Today, we consider our basic human desire to be touched as we reflect on the Fourth Sorrow, Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary.


Every person desires honest, positive touch. It's a manifestation of mutual love and affection in a relationship. Do you remember positive touch as a child? Hugs, high fives, snuggling, kisses, holding hands, gentle guidance through daily tasks… 


In the Gospel scriptures, Jesus constantly reaches out to others in affirming, gentle ways: for Peter's sick mother-in-law, "He went to her, took her by the hand, and helped her up" (Mark 1:31); for Jairus' dead child, He "took her by the hand, and the little girl arose" (Matthew 9:25); for two blind men, He "touched their eyes… and their eyes were opened" (Matthew 9:29-30); for the disciples, "he poured some water into a washbasin and began to wash [their] feet" (John 13:5); for children, "he took [them] in his arms, placed his hands on each of them, and blessed them" (Mark 10:16). 


In the sacraments, we still experience this physical interaction modeled by Jesus -- a gentle touch, sometimes with water or oil -- that reveals and communicates a spiritual reality. 


Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash


Touch is a healthy, normal part of our humanity that can be used to express love, affirmation, and even healing. However, touch can also be used in negative, harmful, or dissonant ways, for example, when Judas kissed Jesus, not as a reflection of their strong friendship, but as a signal of betrayal to the Roman soldiers (Mark 14:44). When we experience the harm of negative touch, healing is needed to restore our trust in good touch, to heal our hearts and minds. Professional counselors or therapists are an invaluable resource for help in this healing.


As we reflect on Mary's Fourth Sorrow, a brief encounter with her tortured Son shortly before his death, may the Lord help us reflect on our own desire to be touched in positive, affirming ways. As a parent, we might ask, how can I help my child experience healthy physical affirmation of my love?


Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash


Next week, we'll reflect on Mary's Fifth Sorrow, Our Lord Dies on the Cross, in light of our basic human desire to be included.

 You can read the first post in this series (Sorrow, Prophecy, & The Desire To Be Affirmed) here.

You can read the second post in this series (Sorrow, Escape, & The Desire To Be Safe) here

You can read the third post in this series (Sorrow, Absence, & The Desire To Be Chosen) here.

 For more information on the seven basic human desires, check out: Seven Desires: Looking Past What Separates Us to Learn What Connects Us by Mark & Debra Laaser.

*Also published October 2020 at Sacred Heart Blog.