When my youngest daughter was a junior in high school, on one of those warming-up days after an ice and snow storm had passed through a few days before, she was hurrying across a parking lot before swim practice, and slipped and fell on the ice. Her ankle was underneath her, and she fell directly on it. My wife arrived home to see my daughter’s friends helping her towards the house, and she was hobbling in obvious pain. She eventually ended up at the emergency room of the Creighton University Medical Center, where I met them in the x-ray department. We awaited the results.
As it was near the end of her swim season, my daughter held out hope that the injury was just a sprain, and that she would soon be able to continue her quest to qualify for the state swim meet. The results came back: it was broken. Her illusion that things would get better in a few days was shattered. Upon hearing the news, she sobbed; it was one of those sobs that comes from the depths of one’s soul, one that any bystander can feel with every fibre of one’s being.
At that moment, I too felt my soul pierced. As a parent, I could not make it better; I could not do anything. I was helpless, just as helpless as she was, but being there for support, it was up to me to put aside my own pain, and to be strong and as positive as I could be. This might sound crazy, but I actually think the bystanders in these cases have the more difficult experience. To the afflicted, my daughter, her role was to simply express her anguish as it was and to carry the cross that she had to bear. All of her power and energy could be focused on healing. For the caring bystanders, they have their piece of the sorrow as well, but must push that aside to “be there” for the afflicted. Their healing is delayed, because management of their own pain and sorrow is not a part of the immediate focus. Their wounds are opened but are not allowed to begin healing..
Compared to the crucifixion of the Messiah, a broken ankle is truly no big deal. However, the broken ankle happened to someone I knew directly, someone I loved. Within this lies the irony: the deeper our love for Jesus, and the more intimate we become with Him, the more sorrowful and more painful the contemplation of His crucifixion becomes for us.
However, there is a silver lining to this cloud: It is in our own experiences of these episodes of helplessness, and the tracking of our own sorrows, that we are connected to Mary with hers.
So I suggest that this be a day where we reconnect with our own sorrows, those times when we had to merely stand by and watch someone we love go through a painful event, and to find there the lessons that the Lord wishes for us this day. As the Lord is fully immersed in the world around us, and wishes to be with us today, we can take solace in the fact that the suffering was not in vain. It had a purpose. No matter what theology we tie to that purpose, the fact that it happened and it was real and we experienced it makes it a redemptive agent in our lives.
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