We are all familiar with the typical Madonna and child image in which we see Mary the mother of Jesus in all her glory carrying a young Jesus. These majestic and happy imagines fill us with warmth and remind us just how human Jesus was. But as we take a look at Michelangelo’s rendition of Madonna and Child, chills are sent through our body. Instead of the vibrant Mary; we see a slumped, distressed and shocked women trying to hold up the limp body of her child. The pain of losing a child is so great that the weight of her loss is bringing her own body down. The Bible passage echoes in my mind that at the foot of the cross stands: “his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene”
As I stand at the foot of Jesus’ cross on Good Friday, I stand in solidarity with the Marys. I am not thinking about Easter Sunday and Jesus’ glorious resurrection; although I know it is to come. I am not thinking about the fact that scriptures must be fulfilled. Instead my heart is bleeding, my eyes are stinging and my body is aching. I feel as if the weight of Jesus’ body is weighing me down and that his death is looming in my hands. For if we, as humans, had not had so much sin we would not have needed redemption.
We have all been in the shoes of one of the Maries. We have been the loved one of a dying family member. We have sat at the foot of the bed watching, waiting, praying and pleading with God as our loved one slowly left us - leaving us at the foot of the cross full of solace and with the weight of our own sorrow dragging our bodies to the ground. The grief of the loss so great that our bodies explode in sorrow and we are left holding their limp bodies. On this holy day we cannot help but be reminded of the holy moments of death. These are the moments that define our faith and often bring us closer to God. And this is the moment in which Jesus’ Ministry was defined.
For it is not Christmas but Jesus’ death and resurrection that defines us as Christians, it is not the warm and fuzzy picture of the Madonna and Child that gives meaning to our faith and religion but it is Jesus on the cross. It is the happenings of a few short days that begins on Good Friday. It is the journey of these three women; not only the pain they feel at the foot of the cross but the relief they receive in coming to know that Jesus is in fact not dead. Today is for us the beginning of the journey. We are feeling the sorrow today at the foot of the cross. We are remembering our sins that placed Jesus there and continue to place people there today. We are feeling the sorrow and weight of Jesus’ body as we try to hold up his life the best we can. Yet, each time we place a loved one in the ground we are reminded of the life that is to come thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross.
As we sit today, observing Good Friday, let us not leave Christ on the cross but instead wrap Jesus in our arms as Mary does in this sculpture. Let our love for Christ and our dedication to his life transform this image into something that we long to see. Let us lift this image of our Christ into our memories so that we may truly know the journey that he took for us and we will one day take. Let us remember his death, let us hold Jesus’ death in our arms feeling the weight of the burden he suffered on the cross. Today, in solidarity with the Maries, let us grieve the death of our Teacher knowing that in only a few short days we will be celebrating the resurrection of our Redeemer.