When I got “the phone call” the first thing I did was run to the nearest church. I walked straight to the front of the empty chapel and I plopped myself on the floor. I looked up to the crucifix on the back wall and said my frequently used prayer, “Why God?”
A few months ago two people came into a health clinic in San Bernardino and shot and killed 14 people; one of those lives that were taken was my cousin.
The chapel is the one place where I don’t have to keep up walls or come up with perfectly composed sentences. It’s a place where I can just be authentically myself.
So I did just that. I brought all my frustrations, my anger, my questions, my hurt, my deep sadness, and I sat at the foot of the cross. I fixed my watered eyes up on the crucifix hanging on the back wall. As I looked at the horrific death Jesus endured, I thought of my cousin and her gruesome last moments on earth. I thought of how much evil there was in the world. I thought of all the people who have become numb and all the people that lost hope. My heart felt- in the most truest and realest way- broken. My heart literally felt pierced over and over again with every breath I took.
And in that moment I realized where I was sitting. I was sitting where Mary was at the Crucifixion of her son. As I fixed my eyes on the crucifix, I looked at the glorified version of what she looked at. The thoughts I had were some of the thoughts that she must of had. The pain that pierced my heart, is the kind of pain that pierced hers. It reminded me of the image of Mary’s Sorrowful Heart:
The swords going through her heart is illustrated from the Gospel of Luke that was told to Mary, “And a sword will go through your heart.” Though I did not nearly experience the amount of agony she must have felt, I could not think of a better description of words that could explain my pain.
As Mary kneels besides us while we are in the midst of distress, she serves as a beautiful example of suffering. I think sometimes I get caught in the image of the unrealistic image of Mary who is always quiet, composed, and nothing like me. But no, at the crucifixion she was probably everything but composed. The pain that she had felt must have engulfed her entire being. She probably sobbed. She probably couldn’t even stand up right. But she knew; this was what had to be done.
When the Angel Gabriel came to her at her Annunciation, she responded, Yes! “I am the handmaid (servant) of the Lord. Let your will be done.” From that moment she laid down her life, her body, her plans, and her fears because she trusted so fully in God’s will. But that wasn’t the only time she said “yes.” She said “yes” every single day, day in and day out, laying her life down, allowing herself to be an instrument for God’s grand plan for her and the world. And at the crucifixion of her Baby Boy she again, laid her life down. She said “yes” to her own kind of crucifixion that evening.
And that’s what we are called to do. We are called to say “yes.”
We are called to say, “Yes Lord, whatever you want” and “Yes Lord, let me be your instrument” every day. But more importantly, we are called to say “yes” when saying “yes” is difficult. In saying yes and running to Jesus in midst of suffering we are saying “Yes, I trust you.”
What do we trust in?
We can trust we are not alone. Jesus and Mary were not exempt from experiencing agonizing pain. So what if instead of asking “why me?” we ask, “why not me?” When we suffer we become intimately united with Jesus on the cross. It brings us to the same vulnerability that Mary had at His crucifixion.
We can trust that God doesn’t abandon us. Mary probably didn’t “feel” comfort and she probably “felt” abandoned, but she trusted in God anyways. She said “Yes.” just like she said so many times throughout her life. Mary trusted firmly in God during her immense motherly pain. We too, are too are called to trust in His constant and infinite love for us.
No matter how traumatic or even seemingly trivial our suffering may seem, God calls us to surrender and kneel down at the foot of the cross. He calls us to kneel where Mary knelt. We are called to enter into the suffering as Mary did. We are called to respond to God’s faithful love for us, and be courageous and say, “yes.” We are called to use our suffering to grow more intimately with Jesus. And we are called to radically trust in His unfailing love- and remain in His love. Because when we surrender and say, “God, my world feels like it’s falling apart, my heart is broken, no one understands me, I feel alone. I can’t do this alone.” We can hear God respond,
“I know you, my child. I know precisely the pain you feel. I know the ten thousand thoughts that run through your head. You may feel misunderstood, but I understand you entirely. I can handle your pain. I love you, my beloved. You are not alone. I am here. Will you trust me?”