A Lenten Meditation
In image I saw a distant view of Jesus nailed to the cross. I seemed to be about fifty yards away but I could clearly hear the noise and din of the crowd. It was heartbreaking to hear how the crowd was laughing and jeering at Jesus. The mocking tones were that of evil and they made me at first angry and then saddened. I kept thinking how can you people be so cruel; don't you know who He is? Don't you know what He is doing, just for you?
As I was thinking those thoughts, I continued walking toward the cross until I was about ten feet away. It was then that I stopped as if waiting for something or some sign of what I was to do next. As I stood there I could see the guards taking Jesus from the cross and lowering Him to the ground beneath it. Then I heard myself say, "Oh, He is already dead". I was filled with a deep sense of loss and knelt to the ground.
As I continued to kneel, I again had the sense that I was waiting to be told what I was to do. Just at that moment I looked up again toward the body of Jesus and saw Mary, His Mother, move up from the edge of the crowd and kneel beside His body. It was a deeply moving scene of a Mother's love for her Child as she put her arms around His lifeless body and drew Him in close to her. She rocked Him back and forth in her arms and pulled her shawl over His exposed and badly beaten body. She comforted Him as I imagined she had so many times when he was a child, brushing the hair from His face and gently patting His wounds.
It was then that the scene grew quiet. The crowds had nearly all disbursed, now that it was evident that Jesus was dead. Only a handful of people remained to guard His body and be there as a comfort to His Mother.
It was in this peaceful stillness that I saw Mary motion to someone to come toward her. I looked behind me to see who she was motioning to but there was no one there. Then she motioned again only this time it was as if my eyes met hers and I knew she was motioning for me. With timid steps I moved a little closer until I was within two feet of Jesus' lifeless body cradled there in his Mother's arms.
Now I could see all of the physical devastation Jesus had endured. It seemed as if there was not a spot on His body that had been left untouched by cruelty. It was so horrible I had to turn away for a minute. But even as I felt the need to turn away, my eyes would immediately be drawn back and my heart would break at the sight and at the thought of what suffering He had endured.
Without saying a word, Mary stretched out her hand motioning me to sit down beside the feet of Jesus. What I sensed within me at that moment was the stunned realization of what a privilege it was to even be invited to draw this close, coupled with a deep sense of unworthiness. I looked at Mary again and it must have been that she sensed my feelings. And again she nodded her assent and pointed to where I was to sit down near His feet.
I sat there for what seemed like an endless time staring at the feet of Jesus, not knowing what else to do and too overcome with what I was seeing to do anything more. His feet were a shredded mass of flesh. In some places even the outline of a foot seemed to have been obliterated. The wounds made by the spikes used to nail Him to the cross had left large gaping, jagged tears. I could see how each movement to steady Himself on the cross, in order to take a breath, had torn away His flesh. I felt an overwhelming sense of awe that Jesus had been so willing to suffer such pure agony for me, for all of us, and my heart seemed to break in pieces.
For a moment I took my eyes from Jesus' feet to steal a look at Mary, His Mother, and I wondered how could she bare to see her Beloved Son like this. My heart went out to her as never before as I realized she too was paying a very high price for the love of mankind. And I remembered the words of scripture, "that her heart too would be pierced that the souls of many might be laid bare". (Lk2:35) As if Mary had heard me quoting that scripture passage to myself, she turned to look at me. Our eyes met for only an instant but in that instant I saw in her eyes a depth of love I had never imagined possible. I realized what I was seeing was not only a Mother's love for me but for all of her children, everywhere. As our eyes met it was as if I could read her thought and I knew she was telling me I was being given the privilege of helping her comfort the body of her Son. I hesitantly reached out my hand to touch one of Jesus' feet and as I did, she gave me a very gentle smile of acceptance and nodded that it was all right.
I laid my hands very gently on each of Jesus' feet and remained that way for some time, just sitting there touching His feet. Then, I became aware of how cold were His feet. All the life had already drained from Him. I looked again at Mary, needing some reassurance that it was still all right for me to touch Him and again came her smile of acceptance. It was her smile, always that smile of acceptance, that gave me the courage to pour out my love to Jesus as I began to caress His feet. Like Mary, I patted His wounds and tried to brush away some of the dried blood; hoping in my heart that I could relieve just a little of the pain He had suffered. As I did I could feel rising within my own Spirit, His desire to relieve the suffering of the world. I sensed in that brief moment what tremendous love Jesus feels for each of us; and how willing He is to lay down His life for us, no matter how brutally painful His suffering.
Again I looked at Mary, and it was in that moment I remembered my prayer of asking her to help me to know her Son better. Through the things I had seen and heard in image, and from her ever accepting smile, Mary had answered my prayer. She had shown me, in a very memorable way, the Mercy of God; and the great value He places in each of us.
Shari R. Panages
Posted by Ed Sousa, Sr. at 2:59 PM