Hopefully we are all familiar with the instinctual impulse felt when you sense that a child or baby is about to do something dangerous, perhaps when your still diapered nephew boldly decides to clamber up the back of an unstable chair and your mind begins to anticipate the pain that the adorable child will feel when both he and the chair tumble to the ground. If you are anything like me, then you are incapable of resisting the instinctual urge to swoop in and escort the child away from the premises. This is an impulse that all mothers (and fathers) must feel frequently. However, sometimes parents must suppress this impulse, perhaps because they know it will be a good learning opportunity for their child or perhaps because sometimes parenting demands surrendering utterly to God’s will. Sometimes no amount of obsessing will prevent a child from placing himself in a potentially dangerous situation. Sometimes grace is the only viable solution. Thus, sometimes mothers are called to a certain type of death: a dying to their natural motherly impulse to obsess over and always protect their beloved child.
This is the very same internal death that Mary experienced when she met her son Jesus on the way to his crucifixion. Whenever I meditate on this 4th Mystery of the Sorrows Rosary, my mind immediately recalls the beautiful depiction of this scene from The Passion of Christ. When Mary sees Jesus fallen and crushed under the weight of His cross, her mind flashes back to an earlier, happier memory when Jesus tripped as a young boy, and she freely gave into her motherly impulse to run out and protect Him. Prompted by the memory, she once again responds to this impulse and runs out to Jesus, but this time she must die to her natural impulse, letting Christ proceed on the way to His crucifixion. Through the scandal of his death, Christ brought resurrection to the world. Mary participated in this paradox of salvation by dying to her merely natural love so that it would be resurrected into a more supernatural love. This resurrection of her love was completed when, after her motherly impulse to protect Jesus had been utterly crucified, Jesus himself entrusted all of humanity to her motherly protection. While Mary was perfect, she was human, and her perfection only accentuated the natural human suffering that she felt while witnessing the passion of Christ. During this last week of Lent, I encourage you to increase your devotion to Mary by meditating on the ways in which Mary’s natural motherhood allowed her to participate in the suffering of Christ.