‘Valley of Tears’

By Joel Padgett

Connecting Faith and Life

Liturgically, we find ourselves between the celebration of the Easter Triduum and Pentecost. Perhaps, similar to the apostles during this time, we find ourselves caught in limbo somewhere between the mystery of the cross, the empty tomb and the “not yet” of Pentecost: catching glimpses of the Risen Christ from time to time (but not as often as they, or we, would like); spending most of the time behind doors in fear; getting out every once in a while (escaping for a bit to go fish, cf. John 21); but really not understanding clearly what was going on, nor having a distinct idea of where things were heading.

We also find ourselves beginning the month of May, the month of Mother’s Day, the month of Mary, our Heavenly Mother. At the foot of the cross, she was entrusted to the beloved disciple – and through him, to each of us. Likewise, we were entrusted to her as her children. Our Mother has many titles, some of which may even seem a bit paradoxical. For instance, she is both “Mother of Sorrows” and “Cause of Our Joy.” Joy and sorrow commingle in the life of the Blessed Virgin: her joy in giving birth to our Redeemer; her sorrow at Simeon’s prophecy (cf. Luke 2:34-35); her joy in being received by Jesus into heaven; her sorrow at the foot of the cross.

Joy and sorrow also commingle in our lives. The tension between the two stretches us, be it like Christ’s open arms upon the cross or like the outstretched embrace of the Father who joyfully welcomes home the prodigal son. In a certain sense, as long as we live in this life, we live in a tension between the sorrow of the crucifixion and the joy of the resurrection. May God save us from the cross without the resurrection, and also from the resurrection without the cross. May we never forget the cost of our redemption. For even the Risen Christ bears the marks of his crucifixion.

Sometimes, we are tempted to skip over sorrow. Yes; this is the season of Easter, and we do rejoice! Nonetheless, how important it is not to bracket out the parts of our lives where we find ourselves or others at the foot of the cross. Like Mary, may we pray for the grace to be able to simply stand in its discomforting shadow for as long or as short as God allows, while placing all of our faith and trust in God. To be compassionate means to “suffer with” someone. There are times when, in spite of every effort, our or another’s suffering cannot be alleviated. Yet God, who has himself suffered, is always mysteriously present in its midst with his compassion.

In the “Hail, holy Queen,” we cry out to Mary, as we “send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.” Mourning is not to be mistaken with complaining. Moreover, as long as we live in this world, there are realities that ought to be mourned. Indeed, “blessed are they who mourn” (Matthew 5:4). So, while we give thanks for the countless blessings of life, let us also give space to mourning. May its discomfort soften our hearts so that they can truly be a comfort to others.

“Mother of mercy,” intercede for us before God that, for the sake of your Son’s sorrowful passion, God may pour out his compassion and mercy upon those who have died and those who have lost loved ones; those who are sick and those who are caring for them; those who have lost their jobs and those who are struggling to provide for their families; those loved ones who are unable to visit each other; those who are alone; those who are frustrated, anxious or depressed; those who are overwhelmed by the challenges of caring for their children; those pastors who wish that they could do more for the souls entrusted to their care; those who yearn for a return to the sacraments; those who are celebrating birthdays, graduation, or other milestones without the presence of family and friends; and for all the intentions we hold in the depths of our hearts. Amen.