Homily for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows
Theme: “And you yourself a sword will pierce.”
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
Homily for Wednesday September 15 2021
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
The Gospel today is about the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple. It is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary. But it is not totally joyful. The old man Simeon pronounced his prophecy about Mary: “and you yourself a sword will pierce.”
These prophetic words to Mary clearly announce that her life is intimately associated with her Son’s work of redemption. Pope St. John Paul II comments: “Simeon’s words seem like a ‘Second Annunciation’ to Mary, for they tell her of the historical circumstances in which the Son is to accomplish His mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow…They also reveal that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering at the Savior’s side and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.” (Encyclical ‘Redemptoris Mater’, 1987).
The seven sorrows of Mary are: the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the flight into Egypt, Jesus’ being lost in Jerusalem, the encounter with Jesus on the way to Calvary, the Crucifixion, the taking of the body of Jesus down from the cross, and Jesus’ burial.
This feast celebrates the spiritual martyrdom of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although she did not die as martyr, she is still called the Queen of Martyrs because she shared in the sufferings of Christ. It is just proper and fitting, therefore, that this feast be celebrated the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
The most vivid image of Mary as the Mother of Sorrows is shown in the crucifixion of Jesus: “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala” (Jn 19-:25).
There are two important points that emerge from this scene on Calvary. First, Mary is profoundly sorrowful, but not despondent. Her sorrow is not that of defeat or despair. Deep inside, she firmly believes she is not losing Jesus. She knows that He will suffer and die, but on the third day, He will rise again. She heard Him talk about this many times before. While the disciples cannot comprehend and are unwilling to accept the Lord’s declaration, Mary, on the other hand, firmly holds on to His words and “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2:19).
Her sorrow, then, is brought about by her most profound love for her Son. It is this love that allows her to endure His sufferings as though they were her own. We know this by experience. The more a person loves, the more he or she identifies with the pain of the beloved. St. Alphonsus Ligouri said, “A brother’s death is more upsetting than a pet’s. A son’s dying is more trying than a friend’s. To get a grasp of Mary’s grief at the crucifixion, we need somehow to appreciate the great extent of her love for her Son.”
Mary is intimately united with her Son in so deep a love that she shares in all His sufferings. St. Anselm expresses this beautifully: “While other martyrs suffered by sacrificing their own lives, the Blessed Virgin suffered by sacrificing her Son’s life, a Life that she loved far more than her own; so that she not only suffered in her soul all that her Son endured in His Body but moreover, the sight of her Son’s torments, brought more grief to her heart, than if she had endured them all in her own person”.
And the second point is the posture of Mary: “standing by the side of the cross of Jesus.” Her sorrow does not bring her down to her knees or cause her to pass out, as we often see in many people overwhelmed with grief. Instead, she remains standing. The position of standing expresses strength. Obviously, her strength comes from her deep faith and conviction especially in the Lord’s promise that He will rise again. No amount of pain, suffering and sorrow can shake her faith.
Standing is also an expression of readiness. She is not passive, but active. She stands ready at all times to do something. She is ready – to do the will of God, as shown in her reply to the Angel at the Annunciation. She is ready – to serve, as shown in her prompt assistance to her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth. She is ready – to fight and challenge anything that is not according to God’s will, as expressed in her Magnificat. After all, she is the Woman ‘who crushes the head of the serpent’. And finally, she stands ready – to claim final and definitive victory over Satan, for she is the ‘Woman Clothed with the Sun’.
Therefore, the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of Sorrows is a vivid and powerful image of profound love, complete fidelity and invincible strength. We should not feel alone in times of grief, suffering and pain. The Mother of God is with us, giving us comfort and strength. And just as she never abandoned her Son on the cross, we are assured that she will not leave us, for we, too, are her children. This celebration should give us hope and encouragement with the assurance of Mary’s motherly love and God’s abounding mercy.
Every time we come to Mass, let us look at Mary beneath the cross of Christ. That is the special place that belongs to her. St. Padre Pio said, “If you want to assist at Mass, with devotion and with fruit, think of the sorrowful Mother at the feet of Calvary.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches