When I was in college, the chapel in my dorm had very beautiful white stone stations of the cross. As a young woman discerning my vocation, I was particularly drawn to the station where Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. In the image, there were two women, one with a baby on her hip and the other unmarried, staring intently at Jesus. I would ask our Lord, “Which one am I to be?” I often felt torn in my heart because, while I longed to meet the man of my dreams and have a baby on my own hip (or several!), I also yearned to have the innermost part of my heart staring intently at Christ crucified. What I did not realize at the time is that the vocation of motherhood brings both of these desires into one.
As mothers, we are both good Samaritans and the wounded on the side of the road. As good Samaritans, we are constantly tending to wounds, sometimes just to “boo boos” and sometimes to spiritual wounds more serious: guiding fallen, little human beings into being saints for God. As Pope John Paul II said, “The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way” (Mulieris Dignitatem, 30). One of our feminine gifts is our unique ability to see and enter into the needs of others, and to offer care and love in those places of the heart that others don’t notice or just pass by. In loving our children, especially in their woundedness, we are gazing upon the crucified Christ who yearns for us to tend to his wounds. “Whatever you do to the least of these, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).
But as moms, we can also feel by the end of the day (or on some days by 10 am) that we’ve been beaten up by the demands of life and have no energy left to get up. Sometimes our wounds are internal, and others can pass by and hardly notice our plight. We become the wounded man by the side of the road. It is then that we also need Christ to be our good Samaritan, to carry us when we have no strength, to bind up our wounds, and to pay for the total cost of our healing himself.
So, as mothers with babies on our hips or older children in our hearts, we find ourselves gazing intently at Christ crucified. At times he calls us to stretch ourselves and kiss his wounds in our own children, and at times he knows we have no strength to get up, and he’ll gladly come down and kiss that innermost part of our soul that so desperately needs him.