Sermons from St Faith's
Stabat Mater Dolorosa
Fr Neil Kelley, Mothering Sunday, 2012
If I said the words “special relationship” to you – where would your
thoughts be directed?
Perhaps today, on this 4th Sunday in Lent (Laetare Sunday) which has
been hijacked by Mothering Sunday, our thoughts go to the special
relationships we have, or have had, with our Mothers. Expressions of
that love and gratitude are found in cards, flowers, chocolates,
burnt toast and warm tea in bed!
Perhaps the words special relationship bring to mind sickly images
of David (call me Dave) Cameron and Barack Obama. I wondered at one
point this last week, when they were saying how each couldn’t exist
without the other whether these public displays of affection were
leading to the first Gay Marriage! For that issue, on which many
Christians will disagree, is an issue which is challenging the
nature of same sex ‘special relationships’.
Special Relationship is also the title of a rather good film - a
dramatization that traces former Prime Minister Tony Blair's
relationships with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush
But our Gospel reading today points to another special relationship.
Outside of the relationship of the Holy Trinity – three persons in
one God – perhaps the special relationship par excellence is that of
Our Lord and His Mother. Those of us who have known the special love
of a mother know what that feels like. Those of you who are Mothers,
and have perhaps lost a child, will know not just of the special
love but of the profound pain which cannot be extricated from that
"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion
on the child she has borne? ...asks the prophet Isaiah in Chapter
49. Today is a day for remembering our Mothers and for giving thanks
that a special relationship between our parents brought us to birth.
That special relationship of the Saviour and His Mother is an
inspiration. It has inspired many artists, poets and composers: one
only needs to listen to the wonderful settings of the Stabat Mater
to realise that – from Vivaldi, Rossini, Pergolesi, Dvorak, Poulenc
to Karl Jenkins. Even Schubert has written a Stabat Mater which was
news to me this week!
The message of the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is a logical
development from the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin
Mary – or Candlemass as it is more commonly known. That feast
recalls the moment when the aged Simeon tells Mary that, as her
vocation to be the Lord’s Mother is lived out, a sword will pierce
her heart. Today we realise how true his words were as we recall
that “near the Cross of Jesus stood his mother”. In one sense we
don’t need to make any comment about that. Actions speak louder than
words, and the picture of Mary watching her Son’s torment and agony
is more than many mothers could bear. As she watched her Son walking
the Way of the Cross, carrying his cross, those words of Simeon will
have hit her hard in a way they perhaps didn’t before. This is what
the old man meant. Of course the triumph of Easter was to come, but
did Mary know that? We can, however, imagine the desolation of her
life as a result of her Son’s death.
Many people at some stage of life experience a sense of being alone.
A sense of isolation. There’s no Calvary. No beloved disciple. No
hill. No centurion. After his body had been laid in a tomb Mary is
completely alone. And that is how it must have been. Even the most
skilled and pastoral bereavement team cannot take away the hurt of
real separation. No-one can go through this pain for us at times.
Only by embracing the darkness and the pain, can we ever hope to
make some very small step along the road of healing and wholeness.
That sense of being alone – even in a crowded room – is stark, harsh
and very real.
But deeper than inspired words or music the special relationship of
Mary and Jesus gives us a pattern to emulate in our discipleship. Do
we stay the course with people? Are we with our friends all the way?
Just how much pain can we take from those we love and, yes, there
are times when we have to say “enough is enough.”
As we think of ‘special relationships’ today there is one final one
we must think of. That special relationship between each one of us
and Our Lord. Have our lives been changed or challenged at all
during Lent? Have we made an effort or not? Do the bible studies and
weekday devotions like Stations of the Cross apply only to others –
to sad people who have nothing better to do? If all we are doing is
going to Church on a Sunday, then how is our relationship with the
Lord deepening and growing? Does it feel as if the cross we are
carrying during Lent is made of heavy wood, or is it as light as a
feather? What, in fact, makes our own relationship with God special?
Is your relationship with God special - or is it practically
non-existent? A disciple’s true relationship with the Lord will mean
more than just having a piece of paper which says we’ve been
The Virgin of Sorrows prays with us, and for us, and she teaches us
the cost and pain of loving and the true nature of discipleship. But
she teaches us to place ourselves at the foot of the Cross so that
we might be raised to the glory of the Resurrection.
Our Blessed Lady, Mary of Sorrows, pray for us and with us, that
today we, like you and the beloved disciples, may be counted
faithful followers of your Son as very shortly we journey with you
to the Foot of His Cross.
Return to St
Faith's home page