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  • Writer's pictureFr. Austin

A Gift at the Foot of the Cross

“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. 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.”

Five people.

Everyone else had left Him. Judas was gone; the Apostles scattered and fled in the Garden; Peter followed for a while, but in fear he denied Jesus and slinked away; the crowds had seen enough and went home, as did the leaders of the people. No one but these four women and St. John remained, standing by the Cross.

In this ultimate moment, Jesus sees those five – in particular His Mother and St. John – and He makes one more gift to His People.

He gives them each other. “Behold your son. … Behold your mother.”

Suffering, hardship, disappointment, injury, evil – all these things are a part of our lives, and the affect us all. Sometimes, these things even come at the hands of those whom we trust the most, and we are thrown completely off our feet. The scourge of abuse at the hands of Church ministers and the poor handling of these cases is certainly a cause for such pain, suffering, and anger. Many lives are forever damaged and changed as a result.

Even for those who do not directly experience the harm find it difficult to remain connected to a Church with such horrible people in it. This surely happens in the case of abuse, but it also happens in less dramatic ways: the loss of a loved one, chronic suffering with no apparent answer from God, disappointment, a bad encounter with a minister or priest. All of these things drive people away.

It is said that the “Church is a big tent” - meaning that there is a lot of room in God’s People for the diversity of experiences and life that are part of our human family. There are so many identities within the Church – “traditional” Catholics, gay Catholics, liberal Catholics, ex-Catholics, lapsed Catholics, “recovering” Catholics, “C & E” Catholics, “regular” Catholics. All of these, in some way, might consider themselves as still falling somewhere under that “big tent,” even if some are right at the door.

But it is a big tent, and Jesus intended it to be that way. The Church was established, and still stands, as the universal sacrament of the desired unity of the human family. There is a place for all of us in here.

But, ultimately, that tent must be supported – it must be held up – by something. And that something is the Cross. The Cross of Christ is the central pillar of that tent, and it allows the covering to encompass all of us, wherever we may stand in the Church.

The Love of Jesus invites us into that tent – even if it is to come back inside, even if it is to step in for the first time. People should find a welcome home here. However, just being in the tent is not enough. We need to recognize why that tent still stands. Where is the source of the strength, the reason it all exists? It’s in the Cross. And there at the foot of the Cross, at the very beginning, only five people remained. These five can witness to the suffering of Jesus – the pain that He shares with you – with all of us – and how that suffering has won such a great victory.

Today, I invite you to come inside; to come to the Cross, like those five, and behold the wood on which hung the Savior of the world. Look to Jesus in His suffering and hear what He has to offer you in your anguish, pain, suffering, anger, and hurt. He looks at you, too, with immense love. And He offers you Himself, and one more gift.

He gives us each other.

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