Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Sept. 15.
Today, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, is also the 12th anniversary of the death of my 18-year old godson, Bart Betow.
His car hydroplaned on the interstate when driving in rainy weather. He was so young and had such a bright future ahead of him. As I gathered with his parents around his lifeless body, and as they made the courageous decision to allow his organs to be taken for donation, I gained new insight into today’s feast. I saw the pain of Our Lady of Sorrows reflected in the faces of two dear friends who were now confronted with a loss greater than any of us is ever equipped to handle alone.
And it occurred to me that this was how it was for the Blessed Mother herself 2,000 years ago. So from the cross, while he himself was dying, Jesus was concerned to make sure that she did not have to bear this grief alone. And that John, his Beloved Disciple, would not have to bear this grief alone either. Jesus gave his mother to John to now be his mother and he gave John to Mary to now be her son. Mary got the short end of that deal, but through him God provided her with what she needed: companionship, accompaniment, care.
From that hour John took her into his home. The loss was real and immense. Jesus was irreplaceable. So also was my godson Bart. But for believers, that is not the end of the story.
Yesterday, the day of Bart’s accident 12 years ago, was the feast of the Triumph (or Exaltation) of the Cross. Our crucifixes are intended to remind us that the Lord understands our suffering. As Jesus hung there dying, he cried out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” He was quoting the beginning of the 22nd Psalm in order to express how in that moment he felt abandoned by God — the psalm will eventually end on a positive note with an expression of faith and vindication by God, but only after first passing through a very dark time.
And isn’t it true that we may sometimes feel abandoned by God in our darkest moments too? When we are blindsided by unspeakable loss.
But we are never really abandoned. God supports us and remains at our side, enduring our losses with us, even when we are too numb to feel his presence. Still, he has always been there, as we discover eventually. It is he who enables us to begin to move forward and embrace life once again, even when the pain of our loss never really does go away.
That is why even after 2,000 years, we still have crucifixes in our churches to remind us that even when the grief remains, our losses too can be redemptive in our own lives and the lives of others. Jesus was a different person on the other side of the grave and so also are we, whatever the loss.
Finally, I note that just as Mary never abandoned her son, remaining at the foot of the cross and filling her eyes with a sight that no mother should ever have to see, so also does she who is now our mother remain with us, never abandoning us either. She stays close to us in our darkest moments too, a sure support in our times of loss. And as we know, loss is simply part of life.
We don’t like it, but Our Lady of Sorrows reminds us that at least we don’t have to face it alone.
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