Sermon given by Fr. Benjamin Durham FSSP at St. Mary’s, Ryde, on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, 2006
Brethren, there is only one thing in the world that is definitely your own, and that is your will. All things can be taken from you: your health, honour, possessions; but your will is irrevocably your own, even in hell. What really matters in life is what you do with your will and indeed, we see a drama of wills in the story of the two thieves crucified on either side of Our Blessed Lord.
The good thief chooses to accept his sorrows. He takes up his cross and abandons himself to God’s will. From his heart full of surrender to the Saviour, comes this plea: “Remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom”. Immediately there comes the answer, “Amen I say to thee this day, thou shalt be with me in paradise”.
At the foot of the Cross Mary witnesses the conversion of the good thief, and her soul rejoices that he has accepted the will of God. Her divine Son’s promise of paradise as a reward for such surrender reminds her of the moment in history when the angel appeared to her and told her that she was to be the mother of him who is now dying on the cross.
When the angel appeared to Mary and told her that she would conceive of the Holy Ghost, Mary immediately answered: “Be it done unto me according to thy word”.
This was one of the great fiats of the world. The first was the creation when God said – Fiat Lux – “Let there be light”; another was in Gethsemane when Our Saviour pressing the chalice of Redemption to his lips, cried: “Fiat voluntas tua” – “Thy will be done”. The third is Mary’s humble surrender – “Be it done unto me according to thy word”.
Our Lord’s promise of paradise to the good thief and Mary’s gentle surrender, teach us the same lesson: EVERYONE IN THE WORLD HAS A CROSS; but the cross is not the same for any two of us. The cross of the thief was not the cross of Mary. The difference was due to God’s will toward each. The thief was to give life; Mary was to accept life. The thief was to hang on his cross; Mary was to stand beneath hers. The thief received a dismissal; Mary received a mission. The thief was to be received into paradise, but paradise was to be received into Mary.
Each of us also has a cross and God gives us the cross that is for us, different from all others. That is why we say that our cross is hard. We assume that other people’s crosses are lighter, forgetting that the only reason our cross is hard is simply because it is our own.
No one would suspect that when Mary resigned herself to God’s will by accepting the honour of becoming the Mother of God, she would ever have to bear a cross. Yet this honour brought to her seven crosses and ended by making her the Queen of martyrs.
There are therefore, as many crosses as there are persons: crosses of grief and sorrow; crosses of want, of abuse; crosses of wounded love and crosses of defeat. There is the cross of widows. Widowhood is spoken of by Our Lord in part because the blessed mother was a widow as she stood beneath the Cross on which Our Lord hanged. When God takes someone from us, it is always for a good reason. When sheep have grazed and thinned the grass in the lower regions, the shepherd will take a little lamb in his arms, carry it up the mountain, lay it down, and soon the other sheep will follow. Every now and then Our Lord takes someone dear to us to heavenly pastures so that the rest of the family may keep their eyes on their true home and follow through.
Then there is the cross of sickness that always has a divine purpose. Our Blessed Lord said: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God; that the Son of God may be glorified by it”. Resignation to this particular kind of cross is one of the highest forms of prayer. Unfortunately the sick generally want something other than what God wants for them.
In the end the tragedy of this world is not so much the pain in it; the tragedy of it is that so much is wasted. It was as the thief hanged on the Cross that he began to find God, and it is only in pain that some begin to discover where love is. Each of us is to praise and love God in his own way. Just as the birds praise God by singing; the sun with its light and the moon with its reflection; each of us praises God by quiet resignation to the trials in life.
The real shortcut to sanctity is the one which Mary chose through her Fiat – the one Our Lord chose in Gethsemane; the one the thief chose on the cross – ABANDONMENT TO THE DIVINE WILL. Trust in God and abandon yourself to Him so that He can give you true happiness, for just as it is well to be a self-made man, it is far better to be a God-made man.
On this Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, this, my dear brethren, is my sincere desire for you all. May God bless you.