Children like to dress up. They like to pretend. Like many of their “role models,” they like to be. As a child, did you ever play house—deciding among your friends or siblings who would be the mother, the father and the children? As a child, did you ever put on your mother’s or your father’s shoes and try to walk about in them? Did you ever play school, pretending to be the teacher with either real or imaginary students? Did you ever play as if you were a fireman or an outdoor adventurer or even a priest or a religious?
All of that came to mind when, recently, after mentioning to a priest my Lenten desire to be at the foot of the Cross, I was asked or instructed to be like Mary, to put myself in her shoes so to speak. Mary is not only the Mother of Jesus and the Model for Religious, but she is the Mother of us all. How desirous Mary is to wrap her mantle around us and to send us off to do what she would do and to be where she would be. What joy that must give her! She sends us off as children of God—even in adulthood. She does that knowing that it will be beside Jesus where we will always be found and, in that, we will always be safe.
What I was being asked to do was not—I know—play acting, although there is a sense of having been given a “supporting role.” None of us can ever truly be anyone other than our self. Why would anyone want to be someone else? Everyone is created individually and uniquely, each of us with utmost beauty in mind and through a most loving heart. To imitate Christ—who is begotten, not created—is what we are all asked to do—to follow in His footsteps.
Being, then, where Mary is found and being there where Jesus’ footsteps paused and where His feet were lifted up, what do I see? What do I hear? What is the atmosphere like—The temperature, the wind or the stillness? What do I feel in my heart? What is sensed in His gaze upon me? What is my response to it all?
No, I am not being asked “to pretend”—to exercise my imagination. The images are there—in my mind and in my heart. The images are real and can be seen and the sounds are real and can be heard, but not fully as yet, not clearly as yet. That blindness and that deafness does not make the reality any less real. I can know and experience it all firsthand—we all can.
If you have lost the consciousness of it, please allow yourself to be reawakened to the awesome and true fact that, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which we are privileged and able to participate in, the one and only Paschal Mystery event being celebrated is truly and actually happening in the present moment. It is not a reenactment. It is not a repeat, a duplication. It is the very same event brought to the present moment as only God can do. If, then, we are living and standing in the present moment—as is what we can only do—and, if, then, at Mass, we truly believe that what we know is happening in the present moment is where we are, should we not be listening for the words and sounds before and around us? Should we not be looking for what is there to be seen? Should we not be able to feel the touch of God’s merciful love?
The next time you hear the hymn, Were You There, it would be no lie to respond in your heart by saying: “Yes, I was there.” In so responding, tremble, then, not for Him, but tremble for the awesomeness of His love for you.
How can our being there be of no difference to us? He who needs no support desires the support of our presence there at the foot of His Cross, wrapped—there—under our Mother’s mantle.
Going to Mass should never be seen as an obligation but as an act of great desire. Oh, how I pray that no one who could have been there and who could have said “yes”, will ever say in answer to the question: “Were You There?”, “No, I was not there.”
The Cross is only a part of the Paschal Mystery present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. May our presence bring true joy to God always.
- Sister M. Clara, FSGM