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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Holy Saturday with Mary
A priest’s reflections on the Sacred Triduum, written from Jerusalem

Our Lady of Sorrows
The image of Our Lady of Sorrows, located next to the altar of Calvary inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

The following reflection on the events of Holy Saturday was written by Fr Eamon Kelly, LC, Vice Chargé of the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center.

The typical Jerusalem Jewish Sabbath is particularly quiet. Even in 2010 there are hardly any cars on the streets. No machines work the construction sites. Shops are closed. Everyone is at home, resting quietly, at ease. This is all the more on the Sabbath of the Passover week. Now add the eerie quiet, typically following tragedy, when people are numbed by the violent death of a close family member.

Mary wakes up on Holy Saturday morning, if she went to sleep at all! What mother can go to sleep the night of her son’s criminal death! People remember last words and keep mulling over them. His last words begin to come back to her. She cannot let them go. The charity-filled tones in which he spoke embedded them even more deeply into her consciousness, and her pure and perceptive heart noticed those nuances. She ponders them continually and they are to her advantage. Yesterday she saw his body placed in the tomb and the sorrow is great. His Good Friday continues in her Holy Saturday and in ours.

So often we Christians go through our various “Holy Saturdays.” Again and again we go through heavy moments and barely survive or are badly bleeding or seriously wounded.  We do know there will be some solution but we can’t really wait. We need something now to get through all this. We are once again living a personal Holy Saturday. Bad news and bad events strike quickly. Calvary was over in hours. But Holy Saturdays often lasts a long time.

At such times it might be to our advantage to draw close to Mary as she ponders these last minutes and words of Jesus’ life. We will need to use our brain to reflect and capture even a little bit of the reality. Mary picked up the state of his soul much more intuitively as mothers, and particularly she, are capable of doing.

“Today you will be with me in Paradise!” (Lk. 23:43)

How can he think of “Paradise,” let alone utter the word  with all his gaping wounds and butchered body, the pain and, even worse still, the total rejection of his person as his chosen people’s leaders incite them to demand his crucifixion and Barabbas’ release? His body and soul are experiencing an invasion of hell and yet his heart has the peace of victory declaring “Paradise is yours today alongside me.”

The smart thief really knows that it is “because of” him, not only ”with” him! That’s why he asked him in the first place. What peace must reign in his heart to be able to say these words with such certainty and evidently so contradicted by the surrounding reality.

When Maximilian Kolbe intoned hymns of divine praise in the hunger bunker where he was being starved to death in August 1942, his fellow inmates probably sensed some measure of this same confidence which Mary felt at these final Calvary words. The inmates’ paradigms are changed. Beyond the negative violence, other forces are also at work: Christ’s pervading peace in the dark night of Auschwitz.

Let’s penetrate beyond the words Christ utters and ponder our way with Mary into his heart of victory. Those dying cancer victims, like my mother in 1997, who give so much joy and hope to the family around them are making this Christ present in our midst once again. Peace reigns in his heart.

“Woman, behold your Son. … behold your mother” (Jn. 19:26).

He was thinking of us.
Despite his wounds!

 It is not easy to think of others’ needs when one has a bad toothache! And he had more than a bad toothache, yesterday. What interior self-dominion reigned in his heart and transcended so much pain as to be able to consider others! Extraordinary inner peace enables this focus on the situation of others. He is sufficiently serene interiorly to be able to be centered on others’ needs. His deep serenity particularly touches Mary’s perceptive heart in these words directed to her. And the fact that her new son, John, is there now reminds her of this word, its tone and his heart from which it sprang. Her heart is broken with this new birth but from his broken heart some of that peace flows to hers.

“It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). The work his Father gave him to finish (Jn. 4:34).

Mary knows all about his sense of mission and purpose. This statement from the dying Jesus reveals two sources of peace.

Firstly a very clear inkling of what was to come grew in him as he read the Psalms, Isaiah, Zachariah, etc. So, he was able to accept this as he shows time and time again: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mt 16), “The Son of Man must suffer …” “Not my will but yours be done!”  In order to be faithful to his mission he had reckoned with hard times that would surely come. He had already established “peace” with this future.

Secondly this mission is completely fulfilled to the last detail, the hardest mission ever assigned to anyone in all of history. What peace must have filled his heart, if we enjoy the relief and peace from minor duties accomplished relatively well!

Mary registered this peace-filled prayer of thanksgiving – that was the tone. He completed his life in peace. A mother wants her child to be at peace. Mary knows her own mission is not complete. Yet in some way it is, because she has shared in his mission. She can go ahead with her the rest of her mission with some of his peace in her heart.

“Father into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk. 23:46).

Search these words for any trace of rebellion, defiance or complaint over so much injustice suffered! It’s hard to find a slightest sign. He simply is above any such reaction. He transcends the horrible agony and the intentionally intimidating aggression and simply offers up his life, laying it down into his Father’s hands.

No greater self-gift.
No greater peace.

At that moment Mother Mary must be overwhelmed by her son’s passing. How could it be otherwise for any mother! Yet now on Holy Saturday, as she gradually comes out of the dazed numbness of pain, these words come back and somehow she can also second this self-gift without complaint.

In the midst of the raging seas and the heated assaults on what we are and hold dearest, Christ’s peace on Calvary can also reach our hearts, especially if we live our sundry Holy Saturdays close to Mary, taking her into our home (cf. Jn. 19:27). Let’s ponder these words with her to our great advantage.



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