Friday, October 2, 2020

Sorrow, Suffering, & The Desire To Be Touched (Mary's Fourth 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 (

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

Sorrow, Comfort, & The Desire To Be Blessed

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.

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