Holy Thursday: A Mother’s Agony


Susanna VanVickle // Genius of the Call

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April 1  

He set a table with attention to detail and tradition. He rolled his sleeves and bent over road-worn feet with basin and towel. He broke bread with intimate companions, and raised eyes to heaven in thanksgiving. Then, he held the cup of blessing and spoke of blood, a new and everlasting covenant, remembrance. His time had come. He knew. The culmination of his mission to give us wholeness, freedom, his very life. The betrayal with a kiss. The mock trial. The scourging and the cross. He knew. How prodigal hearts would waste the redemption bought by his sacrifice, he knew! 

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Jesus entered Gethsemane very sorrowful, even unto death. The unimaginable interior pain caused him to sweat blood. Until recently, I saw the desertion, ridicule, and brutal treatment Jesus was preparing to endure as the culprits for the misery he suffered in the garden. Now I am convinced that, in Christ’s humanity, he was tortured by more than his approaching passion, because in his divinity, he knew. The God-man knew that he would give every drop of his precious blood as ransom, but many a soul for which he paid the price could (and very well might) reject or squander his gift. He readied his sorrowful heart to take that risk. 

Mothers are invited into this agonizing sacrifice of Christ-like love. Day after day, and night after sleepless night, we prove we are willing to give every last drop of sweat, blood, and tears for the mission entrusted to us. We understand the heroic love that costs everything, but what is mind-blowing about the love of Jesus in Gethsemane is his vulnerability. He chose the path of ultimate suffering and surrender—with no guarantees. If we were given the assurance that each soul in our care would absolutely choose to live the fullest life and gain heaven, I think we would do just about anything. Would I not sign up for forty lashes, or even crucifixion, if it meant that not a single loved one would ever be lost? But to lay down my life, my time, my body, my dreams, my needs, and my whole self and then watch a beloved squander the gifts that came at such a cost (to me) feels unbearable. 

Every mother who has been tormented by the choices of her son or daughter has tasted the truest agony of Our Lord in the garden. To love like himwith no strings attachedmeans opening ourselves to heartbreak. Because of free will, there are no guarantees. The cup of suffering, which Jesus pleaded for the Father to take from him, was the suffering of an infinitely vulnerable heart. His heart would have to risk loving us so intensely and not receiving love in return. A mother’s heart is pressed to such risky love. We, too, are called to lay down everything and accept the Father’s plan when we do not know how the story will end.  

Jesus, as I contemplate your suffering this Triduum, may I not forget the risk you took in dying for me. May my love be a soothing balm to your aching heart, and help me to love like you.

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