As we kneel before the Cross today our prayers may move from the focus on the dying man and his mother, to those who witnessed his death, to the mothers throughout space and time who have suffered the loss of their children. No parent should outlive their children, and yet so many do. So many children are lost to malaria, to starvation, to diarrhea, to AIDS, so many never see their fifth birthday, so many barely live at all. And with each death the mother suffers new wounds, wounds of loss, of guilt, of despair, her own limitations laid bare. She cannot save her babies. She cannot protect her darlings from pain and injury. She can only weep and pray. It doesn't matter what age her child is, her wounds are deep and grievous.
Hundreds of mothers in South Korea are suffering the sword of grief today after their high-schoolers drowned in a ferry accident. Hundreds more in Nigeria are pierced by the abduction of their daughters from school. The mother who loses an adult child suffers equally; it is not meant to be this way. We give life so that life may continue beyond us, so that love may be multiplied. We cannot bear to see it cut short, to see the love we have lavished fail to bear fruit but wither on the vine.
We ask today for God to guide those who take counsel for the nations of the earth. With God's help, the leaders of the nations can bring about the changes that are needed, so that all children may be granted opportunities to grow and flourish, so that all mothers may be healed of the swords that pierce them through. Clean water, an equitable distri-bution of resources, enough for all, an end to hoarding and greed: these things are pos-sible, if we listen to the voice of the lost and forsaken, if we enter fully into the grief of the mothers and make it our own grief. In the hymn we pray for the grace to share with Mary in her desolation, to know the grief that she knows. Her grief is our grief, for the man on the cross is our God, battered and broken that we might be made whole.
We pray for all members of the church across the world. We are all one body, for we worship one God; we partake of one bread. The body of the church is battered and bro-ken too: by conflict, by persecution, by struggles over power and control. Even in Jeru-salem, the cradle of the church and the focus of our giving today, the Church is visibly and violently cracked and wounded by rivalries and factions among Christian groups. And we are still suffering from centuries of wrongful persecution of Jews for the way Scripture portrays their part in the crucifixion.
What if all people of faith set aside their differences and mutual condemnation? What if we took the swords with which we pierce one another and turned them into plowshares, to till the fertile ground of mutual ministry and cooperation, to feed the hungry children, to share life-giving medications, to offer life instead of death? What if we repented of our divisions and simply sank down on the ground with Mary, to watch and weep, to bewail the wounds of Christ, the wounds of the church, the wounds of the world?
"By the cross with thee to stay, there with thee to weep and pray, is all I ask of thee to give."
May all our prayers today be answered.
The Very Rev. Penelope Bridges