Kelly Guest reflects on how Mary comforts and encourages us when faced with the loss of a loved one.
She wailed. Not a muffled, controlled cry, but an all-out scream cry. The portrayal of Mary in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ as Jesus is taken down from the cross and laid in her arms haunted me. I had never imagined Mary, in all my meditations, so utterly, completely crying.
Distraught? Yes. Heart-broken? Pierced, actually. Tears? Yep, running down her cheeks. But I always imagined Our Lady composed and not so devastated. I don’t know why.
Perhaps because I believed that Mary so trusted God that she knew that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” long before Paul ever wrote that verse down (Romans 8:28). I am sure she did.
But that doesn’t mean she understood God’s plan. It doesn’t mean she didn’t feel the full brunt of the devastation of losing a loved one. Mary was human; she had emotions. She was a mother who just watched her only child suffer and die an ignominious death. Perhaps, through all her tears, she did cry out loud to the heavens.
These past fourteen months have been hard on us. Fear of the unknown, solitude, depression, frustration, and doubt are just some of the emotions we have experienced. Moreover, many of us have lost loved ones. Recently, my family has personally experienced such loss. My mother’s sister passed away not long before Easter. When I came home from the convent years ago, she and my Uncle John visited me and brought a big bag of clothes to help me begin a new wardrobe. She had a generous heart.
Then, the Friday after Easter, my dad’s older brother suddenly left us. For years, after the passing of my grandparents, Uncle Marty was the patriarch of the family, keeping us all together and making sure we remained close and celebrated the major holidays together like we always did when my grandparents were alive. He, too, was a very generous man who never left anyone in need.
I was close to my uncle. He had three boys, so I used to say that I was the daughter he never had and never wanted! That is why it was such an honor when my cousins asked me to read at his funeral Mass. The passage from the eighth chapter of Romans was very familiar to me. I practically know it by heart. Moreover, I am comfortable standing before people to speak or read; after all, I do it often for my job.
Yet, that day, before all my family and all the friends of my uncle, when I read, “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” I lost it. A full out cry. Not quite like the cry of Mel Gibson’s Mary, but still, an uncontrollable cry. Emotions took over. My heart broke. And I had a difficult time composing myself enough to finish the reading. It was not pretty.
If I cried like that at my uncle’s funeral, then I suppose Mary, too, may have lost it at the foot of the cross. That does not mean she lost hope, though. Merely, she was feeling the separation death causes. It hurts. But it is only temporary.
Mary, our hope, assures us that a glorious reunion awaits us. I always imagined that Jesus appeared first to his mother Easter morning. He comforted her and held her in his arms. After all, “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed” (Psalm 34:19). Then, there were no more tears.
Strengthened even more by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Mary fulfilled the mission Jesus gave her from the cross – to be mother to His disciples, the mother of His Church. She encouraged the apostles and guided the new Christians. After she had completed so faithfully and well her mission, Jesus called her to Himself in Heaven.
Mary’s Assumption gives us hope that we will, likewise, join her in Heaven with Jesus and all our loved ones. First, we have a mission to complete. The vocation to motherhood is ours, too. We are to strengthen and encourage our children, guiding them in the path they are called to go. We are commanded to love and nurture, not only our own family, but all of God’s family. Then, when we have done all he has asked us to do, Jesus will welcome us home.
This is our hope. It is our goal. And Mary shows us how, with all our human emotions, to achieve it. Mary, Mother of Hope, pray for us.
Eternal rest grant unto Millie and Marty, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.
About the Author
God has given Kelly lots of wonderful opportunities to follow Him. She was a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia in Nashville, an education coordinator for a Catholic Charities' program for pregnant teens, a middle school teacher, a director of religious education and is now a youth minister. Her most challenging and rewarding calling, though, is wife and mother of ten children. What she has learned, she blogs at CatholicMom.com. Kelly's book, Saintly Moms: 25 Stories of Holiness, is due out October 2021.