Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, September 15, 2016 — Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows — “We are all called upon to suffer”

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
Lectionary: 446/639

Reading 1 1 COR 15:1-11

I am reminding you, brothers and sisters,
of the Gospel I preached to you,
which you indeed received and in which you also stand.
Through it you are also being saved,
if you hold fast to the word I preached to you,
unless you believed in vain.
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received:
that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he was buried;
that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once,
most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
After that he appeared to James,
then to all the Apostles.
Last of all, as to one born abnormally,
he appeared to me.
For I am the least of the Apostles,
not fit to be called an Apostle,
because I persecuted the Church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me has not been ineffective.
Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them;
not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me.
Therefore, whether it be I or they,
so we preach and so you believed.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1B-2, 16AB-17, 28

R. (1) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
“The right hand of the LORD is exalted;
the right hand of the LORD has struck with power.”
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
You are my God, and I give thanks to you;
O my God, I extol you.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

Sequence (Optional) – Stabat Mater

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole begotten One!Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.Is there one who would not weep,
‘Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that mother’s pain untold?Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of his own nation
Saw him hang in desolation
Till his spirit forth he sent.

O sweet Mother! font of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with yours accord.

Make me feel as you have felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

Let me share with you his pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with you,
Mourning him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with you to stay,
There with you to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of you to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine.

Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of yours.

Wounded with his every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In his very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In his awful judgment day.

Christ, when you shall call me hence,
Be your Mother my defense,
Be your cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally.
Amen. (Alleluia)

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The Stabat Mater is a 13th-century Catholic hymn to Mary, which portrays her suffering as Jesus Christ‘s mother during his crucifixion. Its author may be either the Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi or Pope Innocent III.[1][2][3]The title comes from its first line, Stabat Mater Dolorosa, which means “the sorrowful mother stood”.
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Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary;
without dying you won the martyr’s crown
beneath the Cross of the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 19:25-27

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

Gospel LK 2:33-35

Jesus’ 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.”

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Our Lady of Sorrows – Commentary on Hebrews 5:7-9; Ps 30; Luke 2:33-35 or John 19:25-27 From Living Space

There are two choices for the Gospel reading. The first is from Luke’s account of the Presentation in the Temple. While they were in the Temple, Mary and Joseph met the holy man Simeon, who had been promised that he would not die before laying eyes on the Messiah.

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When he meets Mary and Joseph, he recognises the Messiah in the Baby she is holding. He then proceeds to make some prophecies about Jesus and, addressing Mary herself, tells her that a “sword of sorrow” will pierce her heart. He does not specify what that “sword” might be but now we can see that it particularly alludes to the suffering and death of Jesus which she witnessed. However, the “sword” can also be applied to the other painful experiences we remember in the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

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The alternative Gospel reading is from John’s account of the Crucifixion where he mentions that the “mother of Jesus” was standing by the foot of the Cross as her Son died. With her were two other women, her sister called Mary (wife of Clopas), Mary of Magdala and the “beloved disciple”.

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Seeing them there, Jesus entrusts the Beloved Disciple to the care of his Mother, while telling the Beloved Disciple that Jesus’ Mother is his also. Some would see in this scene the Mother of Jesus as symbolising the Christian community. There is to be a relationship of mutual support between the community and its dedicated members. The community exists for the well-being of the individual members and each member is committed in turn to the well-being of the community.

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The First Reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews and speaks of Jesus’ passionate prayer to his Father that he not have to go through the terrible death of the Cross. And his prayer was heard, because of his total submission to his Father. It was precisely through the acceptance of his suffering that he learnt to be totally at one with the will of his Father. And, being made perfect through his obedience, he became a source of salvation for all others who unite themselves to him.

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And who was more united to Jesus than his Mother? It is because of her acceptance of and identification with the sufferings of her Son that we celebrate her memory today.

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Our Lady of Sorrows — The Madonna in Sorrow, by Sassoferrato, 17th century
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
(From September 15, 2014)
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There are many ways to look at sufferings in life.   Those who are negative will look at sufferings as a curse from God.  Such an attitude can turn them bitter against God and the world.  When we try to run away from our sufferings or deny them, we will end up being miserable.

Fortunately, most of us assume a positive approach to suffering; seeing it as a pedagogy of life.  In other words, it teaches us about life and most of all, it purifies our attitude towards people.  It helps to sanctify us.  Indeed, as the letter to the Hebrews tells us, Jesus Himself learned obedience through suffering.  In other words, we can embrace suffering as part of the mystery of life or fight it.  If we fight against suffering, then we open ourselves to greater pain, like when we harden our muscles when receiving an injection.  The way to overcome suffering is to let go and embrace it as God’s will for our growth, purification and strengthening of character.

However, it is not sufficient to see suffering in this manner as it is still very much focused on the self.  Rather, suffering should teach us to reach out, for it is only in reaching out that we are able to forget our own sufferings.  The clue to reaching out is found in the gospel of St John, when we are told that “the disciple made a place for her in his home.”  In other words, like John, we are called to feel with Mary, just as Mary felt with Jesus and identified herself with Him.

When St Paul tells us that if we share in the sufferings of Christ, we will also share in His glory, and that if we share in His death, we also share in His resurrection, he is not simply suggesting that if we suffer just like Jesus, we too will be glorified and raised like Jesus.  Of course, this is true, but there is a deeper significance to this exhortation of Paul.

St Paul is telling us that in sharing the sufferings of Christ, we will understand not only what Christ has gone through, but what He has suffered for us, for our sake and for our salvation.  In other words, by sharing in His sufferings, we can now identify with Him, not just in His sufferings, but also feel the depth of His love for us.  Only when we come to know how much He has loved us, can we come to love Him even more.  If we are called to know how much He suffered, it is so that we can appreciate the extent of His selfless love for us.  It is important that we understand the purpose of His sufferings.

Suffering in itself is not redeeming unless it is experienced for love of others.  So in sharing Christ’s sufferings and understanding His love for us, we are now ready to suffer for Him in return as our grateful response to His love.  Indeed, this was the way Christ suffered.  If He could suffer so much for us, it was because He had experienced the Father’s self-emptying love for Him.

Even in human relationships, we are inclined to be more sympathetic to people whom we encounter, and those who share their sufferings and pain with us.  Without understanding their struggles, the natural reaction would be for us to apply the laws to them objectively, without taking into consideration their existential context.  But justice, especially the justice of God, requires that we apply laws within the context and circumstances of each individual, as opposed to a legalistic manner.  Indeed, when we lack contact with a person and lack understanding of his or her personal struggles, we cannot empathize very much with the person.

That is why dialogue and communion enables us to feel with and for each other.  It is not in our nature to act objectively; only robots do that.  But neither do we act subjectively, for if we do, then we are not living out the truth.  Rather, we act objectively in a subjective manner, taking into consideration both the person and his circumstances.  Compassion and justice meet in God and in the Christian.  Once we recognize the person as a person and not a thing, then we too, can help the person to transcend his struggles.

Truly, if we feel with each other, then like Jesus, we will look upon others with compassion and sympathy rather than judgmentally.  In silent tears, we pray for those who are suffering and in pain, especially for our enemies, because like Jesus, we can understand why they are acting the way they do.  Like Jesus, we are called to forget our own sufferings but instead, to look towards the sufferings of others, so that no longer will we judge them with condemnation but with mercy.  For like Christ, we are called to share not just in His sufferings but we must also share in the sufferings of our enemies.

Today, Mary is our model.  If she is so associated with the redemptive suffering of Christ, it is because as a mother she must have felt with Jesus in His mission of love.  Most of all, if she could forgive the enemies of her Son, it was also because she could feel the way He felt for His enemies.  So, if we too, can feel with Jesus in His sufferings through our sufferings, we will repent of our own sins, return to Him in love and gratitude and undertake upon ourselves the same mission of love and mercy that we have received from Jesus.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/15-september-2014-our-lady-of-sorrows/#sthash.Z32XBVDT.dpuf

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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September 15, 2016
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15 SEPTEMBER 2016, Thursday, Our Lady of Sorrows
SHARING IN CHRIST’S REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING WITH MARY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  Heb 5:7-9; Ps 30: 2-6, 15-16, 20; Jn 19:25-27 OR Lk 2:33-35  ]

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross.  The corollary to the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross appropriately is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.   More than any other, Mary has been chosen to share most intimately in the sufferings of her Son.  She was chosen to share in His passion.  Whereas Jesus suffered in the body, notwithstanding his soul, Mary suffered in the soul for Christ and with Christ.  This suffering is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Simeon when he said, “You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.”  Indeed, it is for good reason the Church even honours her with the sublime title of “co-redemptrix.”

How did she share in the sufferings and the passion of Christ?  As a mother, she would be most identified with Christ.  She carried Him in her womb for nine months and was with Him day and night for 30 years of His life.  She knew Jesus’ mind and heart.  She was with Him in everything, including doing the will of God.  That is why at Cana in Galilee, she told the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”

From the beginning of the life of Jesus till His death, or rather from the womb to the tomb, Mary suffered with Christ.  At her conception of Jesus, she was misunderstood by Joseph.  Upon the birth of Christ, she had to flee with Jesus to Egypt because of the persecution.  During Jesus’ teenage years, she had to deal with the angst of a growing boy finding His identity.  When Jesus was 30 years old, she had to bear the pain of separation when He entered the ministry.  When He was doing well in the ministry, she had to suffer the pain of being misunderstood and rejected by closed relatives and friends because they thought He was mad.  When He was arrested, scourged, mocked, ridiculed and taunted, she saw and bore the pain with Jesus.  On the way to Mount Calvary, she suffered the pain of seeing her Son in a most pitiable state, for He was like a criminal condemned to an innocent death.  At the cross, she had to bear the sight of the nails being driven one by one into His body.  Finally, when she thought everything was over, a lance was pierced into His heart.  The sight of this piercing would have been the last straw for Mary.  When Mary carried Jesus’ lifeless body in her arms, how sad and sorrowful Mary must have felt.  But through all these events, she stood by Jesus all the way as a mother would for her children, even standing underneath the cross when all, including Christ’s closest friends abandoned the Lord.

In the light of this, we are now called to bring Mary to our home, that is, to share in Christ’s suffering just as she did.  This was what the Lord instructed the beloved disciple who represented the Christian community, the Church.  “Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing hear her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.”  (Jn 19:26f)

Why is it necessary to share in Christ’s suffering?  St Paul gives us the reason, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”  (Col 1:24)  In other words, we are called to share in Christ’s suffering for our redemption and the redemption of the world.  This is what we call, redemptive suffering.

How does redemptive suffering work?  In the first place, it works for us.  We all need salvation.  We need to be purified in love and in truth.   Even Jesus had to learn obedience through suffering.  “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”  (Heb 5:8f)  Only when we do the will of God, like Christ, can we find peace and integrity.  Suffering therefore is a means by which we resign ourselves to the will of God.  It is fidelity to God even unto death that brings us salvation.  Through suffering, we learn to depend on God and not simply on ourselves.  We realize our position in this world and are not deceived into thinking that we are so great or powerful.   In the face of illnesses and tragedy in our lives, we are helpless.  So suffering can help us in our conversion and growth in holiness.

But suffering can also help the salvation of others.  It can awaken their conscience and to the illusions of this world.  This is what the Prophet Simeon said, “You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected … so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.”  Jesus by His passion, death and resurrection will expose the secret motives of all of us.  For those who cheat themselves, they will destroy themselves.  For those who respond to Christ, they will rise from the pit.

Our suffering can edify those who see us suffer with joy and faith.  If we suffer patiently, cheerfully and cooperate with the grace of God, using the means given to us, we can inspire others who are sick and even the healthy.  By seeing us suffer positively and in the way we carry our crosses of life with fortitude, patience and hope, others in their trials will also find strength to carry on.  As St James urges us, “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1:2-4)  This is true when we suffer patiently and unjustly.  Innocent suffering transforms the world.  This is what St Peter said, “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called – that you might inherit a blessing (1 Pt 3:9)

This is particularly true with respect to forgiveness of those who have hurt us or wronged us.  We are called to be magnanimous and forgive them the way Jesus forgave us at the cross.  Not only did He forgive us, but He made excuses for us and prayed for our forgiveness.  In forgiving others, we show them the mercy of God, and our faith that justice, love and life will triumph over injustice, hatred and death.  This is the prayer of the psalmist.  He said, “Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, O Lord, O faithful God.”   So through our compassion and forgiveness, we will bring healing and win over our strayed brothers and sisters to the Lord.

Hence, if we find ourselves suffering for the wrong reasons and suffering without joy, we need to pray for wisdom so that we can understand how suffering can be redemptive for us and for others.  But we must suffer in faith with cheerfulness, patience and hope.  St James says, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.”  (James 1:5)

Through prayer and contemplation on the Crucified Lord who led the way in suffering and contemplation on our Lady of Sorrows, we will find strength and inspiration to join them in suffering for the redemption of the world, beginning with ours. As we contemplate on their lives, we too will learn to suffer with others the way Mary suffered with Jesus.   We come to realize that the greatest form of charity to those who are suffering goes beyond simply helping them financially or physically.  But it is to stand by them and being with them to give them moral and spiritual support.  This is what they need most in these times to help them find the strength to conquer their weaknesses and discipline themselves in a life of virtue and holiness.  Helping them to do the task is not the best way, but to give them the strength to overcome the difficulty is even greater.  Beyond mere empathy, we suffer with them by being identified with their sufferings as we carry their infirmities on our bodies like the suffering servant.  We need to be in union with them in mind and heart and in emotions if we are to give them the strength to endure their trials.  By identifying ourselves with them, we will be more compassionate and understanding.  Most of all, we suffer for them by being of service whenever we can. At times we might have to suffer in silence because we are unappreciated or misunderstood.  To suffer for doing good is what innocent suffering is all about.  In this way, our suffering will indeed be truly redemptive for ourselves and for others.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
 
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Related:

 … “Today the Church has more Christian martyrs than in the first centuries,” Pope Francis said.

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