A Word in Season
9/11 and the Ever-Present Christ
Jesus Christ is present in every human suffering.
In ten years since 9/11, Jesus still promises to be present to the survivors and onlookers: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Mt. 5:4). Moreover, Jesus sends his mother, Mary, who once suffered grievously at the Cross, to supernaturally aid us in sorrow.
This is not all: the Divine Redeemer wishes to penetrate the soul of every sufferer through the heart of his holy Mother. . . . As though by a continuation of that motherhood which by the power of the Holy Spirit had given him life, the dying Christ conferred upon the ever Virgin Mary a new kind of motherhood—spiritual and universal—towards all human beings, so that every individual, during the pilgrimage of faith, might remain, together with her, closely united to him unto the Cross, and so that every form of suffering, given fresh life by the power of this Cross, should become no longer the weakness of man but the power of God. (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, 1984, par. 26)
The woman who stood by the bleeding, dying Christ has an important role to play for us. (Perhaps not coincidentally, the Catholic Church has long recognized September as dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows.)
Mary's way teaches us how to sift things. She models faith-filled suffering and a holy patience for the playing out of difficulties of one's life. Mary knows how to grieve enormous losses. Despite sorrows piercing her heart, she chose to believe in the more of God's economy: sharing in the cross with Christ lessens the burden for someone else.
[Mary lives] this . . . Gospel of suffering. In her, the many and intense sufferings were . . . not only a proof of her unshakeable faith but also a contribution to the redemption of all. In reality, from the time of her secret conversation with the angel, she began to see in her mission as a mother her "destiny" to share, in a singular and unrepeatable way, in the very mission of her Son. And she very soon received a confirmation of this . . . in the solemn words of the aged Simeon, when he spoke of a sharp sword that would pierce her heart. Yet a further confirmation was in the anxieties and privations of the hurried flight into Egypt, caused by the cruel decision of Herod.
And . . . it was on Calvary that Mary's suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysterious and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the Cross together with the Beloved Disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming death of her Son. (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, 1984, par. 25)
Mary was the first person to join her sufferings to that of Christ, the crucified One, the Victim whose blood saves us. When we follow her lead, our meager offerings of suffering somehow become redemptive; they have the power to help someone else in need, thereby allowing good to come of our pain.
Vatican II taught: "Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow grow meaningful."
The way of suffering truly is the way of saints-in-the-making, be they victims, survivors, or onlookers. It is the way we work, pray, and live through the worries and anxieties and difficulties of a post-9/11 world.
This day, and every day, may we join our sufferings to Jesus, like Mary did.
Let there also gather beneath the Cross all people of good will, for on this Cross is the "Redeemer of man", the Man of Sorrows, who has taken upon himself the physical and moral sufferings of the people of all times, so that in love they may find the salvific meaning of their sorrow and valid answers to all of their questions.
Together with Mary, Mother of Christ, who stood beneath the Cross, we pause beside all the crosses of contemporary man.
We invoke all the Saints, who down the centuries in a special way shared in the suffering of Christ. We ask them to support us.
And we ask all you who suffer to support us. We ask precisely you who are weak to become a source of strength for the Church and humanity. In the terrible battle between the forces of good and evil, revealed to our eyes by our modern world, may your suffering in union with the Cross of Christ be victorious! (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, 1984, par. 31)
Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press. Subscribe to “A Word in Season” via email or RSS.