Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter
In yesterday’s reflection, we considered how the “little while” that the disciples experience during the passion can cast some light on our own situation in this “little while” between the Ascension and the Second Coming. In today’s gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that they will be in anguish as a woman in labor is in anguish (cf. Jn 16:21-22). As André Feuillet observes, there is one person for whom this image applies most perfectly during Jesus’ passion: his Mother (cf. Jesus and His Mother). “Theotokos,” the title by which the Council of Ephesus honored the Blessed Virgin Mary, is sometimes translated into English as “Christ-bearer,” but a more literal translation is “birther of God” [i.e. “the one who gives birth to God”]. The title is actually quite shocking, when one thinks about it, which makes it even more extraordinary as a dogma of our faith.
Under the cross, Mary is in the anguish of labor together with the disciples. It is curious that Jesus uses the image of a woman in labor to describe all those who—by grace—stand in this place to share in the anguish of Christ’s passion. But maybe the fact that Mary stands in this place can help us to understand our own anguish, if Jesus should offer us the grace to taste, with her, something of the anguish of her Son’s passion. Jesus affirms that, “when [the woman] has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world” (Jn 16:21). According to the council of Ephesus, the one that Mary “births” is her Son, so we can say that in Jesus, Mary “no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.” Could it be that, through God’s grace, by bearing the cross that is given us (cf. Mt 16:24-26), we are to live lives that are so conformed to the Son that the Holy Spirit gives us something of the grace of “birthing” God through these lives that we lead in and for the world? If this is possible, it is only possible as a grace that descends from above and abides within us, enabling us to “birth” God through the “yes” to God that Mary pronounces at the Annunciation and shares with us through the Church. This “yes” to God will mean sharing in travail, but also in joy (SpEx 93). “So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (Jn 6:22)
May 6th, 2016