Today we in the family of Holy Cross celebrate the Feast Day of our patroness, Our Lady of Sorrows. As our Constitutions state, "She is our special patroness, a woman who bore much She could not understand and who stood fast. To Her many sons and daughters, whose devotions ought to bring them often to Her side, She tells much of this daily cross and its daily hope" (8:120).
To help us enter into this great Feast Day, we share with you the homily that Fr. Tony Szakaly, C.S.C., Assistant Provincial and Steward of the United States Province, preached at he beautiful celebration of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart this evening. May her hope be ours to share with the world.
Last Sunday, our nation commemorated the 10th Anniversary of the horrible events of 9/11. If ever there was proof that ours is a world of sorrows, this was it. On that terrible day, I remember that I had just finished the morning Mass at my parish and was sitting down to breakfast when I received a call from a friend to quickly turn on the TV as a plane had just crashed in to the World Trade Center. Just as I switched on the news, another plane crashed into the second tower. Soon after, both towers collapsed, and I was filled with deep sorrow at the senseless pain and suffering I had witnessed. But as the stories unfolded, I also came to see hope in the actions of many brave men and women who selflessly risked everything to rescue those who were trapped and gave assistance to those who were injured.
Blessed Basil Moreau, the Founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, was no stranger to sorrow. He grew up in France in the turbulent times after the revolution. Many priests and religious had been killed or exiled and ordinary people risked their lives if they dared to practice the faith. Basil Moreau gathered together a group of priests and brothers to bring hope to the country, by preaching and teaching the message of Christ. His zeal to change sorrow into hope, soon led him to send his priests and brothers out to other countries. Fr. Moreau endured many trials and tribulations in the years he remained Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross, but he never lost hope in the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ – which is why, I think he chose this day, Our Lady of Sorrows as the patronal feast of the Congregation of Holy Cross. And today’s Gospel tells us why.
Imagine for a moment the scene we just heard played out in the Gospel. Our Savior Jesus Christ has been whipped, beaten, tortured and nailed to a cross. His ministry is in ruins and most of his friends and disciples have scattered, fleeing to save their own lives. Jesus, in great physical agony, looks down from the cross and sees His mother, weeping, full of sorrow.
Despite His own affliction, His heart immediately goes out to her. This is the woman who always says yes to God, even though she doesn’t fully comprehend what sorrows that yes will bring. She stands by Jesus to the end, suffering as He suffers. Now, Jesus knows that she will be totally alone in the world. As a woman of her time, with no husband and no children, she will have absolutely nothing after He is dead. There will be no one to provide for her and protect her. Jesus also catches sight of one of His disciples in the crowd, the only one who dares to risk being at His execution. Jesus then asks Him to take care of His mother and He asks His mother to care of the disciple as if they were indeed members of the same family.
This is the same command that Jesus gives to each one of us. We are to look upon each other as if we are family, for indeed we are, not necessarily related by the blood of common lineage, but related by the blood that Christ shed for us on the Cross. We are called to take care of one another as children do for their mother and as a mother does for her children. We do this despite the risks, despite the inconveniences and despite the costs involved because that is what discipleship is all about. It is by being faithful to our discipleship that we come to know and believe in the salvation promised to us by Christ because we will see hints of it lived right here, right now.
We see hints of the Kingdom of God in the dedication and vows of the men and women of Holy Cross who offer their lives and their lives’ work for the spread of the Good News. We catch a glimpse of God’s living love in the huge outpouring of prayer, support and concern in the recent rash of natural disasters which have plagued our country. We see the hope of Christ whenever we see someone reaching out to those in need without concern for their own comfort and gain.
This Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is indeed a great cause for celebration. For on this day we celebrate our God who loves us so much that He is willing to sacrifice His own Son for our salvation. We celebrate the love of His Son Jesus Christ, who even in the agony of death still reaches out to those in need. We celebrate Mary, the mother of God, who stands firm in her faith, despite having to endure the horrible pain of seeing her only Son tortured and killed. And we celebrate that we, the recipients of God’s love, are called to love others as God loves us.