During a rough patch in my parenting career, not so long ago, I decided to adopt praying the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, Mary, mother of Jesus. I have a special rosary that focuses on the seven sorrows that Mary faced in her lifetime, and asking for her to pray for us as we think about what she endured in her own walk with Jesus. The seven are:
- Simeon announces the suffering destiny of Jesus and Mary
- Mary and Joseph escape to Egypt with Jesus (Slaughter of the Innocents)
- Mary and Joseph seek Jesus lost in Jerusalem
- Mary meets Jesus as he carries his cross
- Mary at the foot of the cross during the crucifixion
- Jesus is taken from the cross and put in Mary’s arms
- Mary helps take care of the body of her son and helps place it in the tomb
As you walk through these scenes filled with sorrow, we can feel her mother’s heart; something which has grasped particular hold of my own over these years of parenting.
While praying the joyful mysteries today, however, a wonderful revelation came to me. I understood that two of these sorrowful mysteries of our Lady’s journey are the same as two of the joyful mysteries in the lives of Jesus and Mary. It is the phenomenon that we classically hear someone ask, “What do you want to hear first? The good news or the bad news?” (By the way, ALWAYS choose the bad news first. It makes the good news all the sweeter.) The bad and the good sometimes come hand-in-hand.
Last week at my father-in-law’s funeral, we experienced great loss and sadness, but like St Paul tells us in Romans chapter 5, “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.” Grace OVERFLOWED ALL THE MORE. In my mind, I see it pouring over the sides of its vessel there was so much, and then even more…can you picture more than pouring over the sides in overflow? Hard to even imagine isn’t it?
Well in every situation that has passed us by, and they do pass you by–in case you are experiencing anything right now–especially the most painful events, there is something mystical that happens. Grace comes in. Have you ever felt in a moment of great pain or loss, “I should be in the fetal position on the floor in despair right now, but somehow I am still standing”. You have an indescribable sense of peace. And it usually feels like that because, next to you, is someone who is giving you love and support. God sent someone to accompany you and even if they don’t have the “perfect words” to soothe a loss, or take away a sword in your heart, like Simeon told Mary she would one day have, the fact that God’s love is being made present to you. He loves you. He loves you so much. Only he can make an overflowing vessel of grace and love, giving more than it can already give, give all the more.