1 John 3:1–2
A number of things coincide today to stir up our prayer and to make it more fervent, more confident, more pressing. First, we are praying for the happy repose of the soul of Sister Mary Xavier’s sister, Ellen Marie Norton. A wise old Father once said to me that when a monk is sick, he should be cared for in his own monastery with the same tenderness that his own mother would have for him, were she at his side. When the death of a loved one arrives for a Sister, the same thing is true: she should be surrounded with the same attention and affection that her family would have for her, were she at home among them.
Every time Our Lord calls one of our family to Himself, it is as if another one of the veils separating us from our own death is lifted. Our own mortality becomes more real. As we grow old, we begin to notice that fewer and fewer of our loved ones remain with us here below in this valley of tears. One by one, the persons whom we cherish the most — grandparents, mother, father, spouse, brothers, and sisters — pass from his life. With each death, our own hearts become more focused “on the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1).
The second thing that solicits our prayer in this Holy Mass is the fifth anniversary of the tragedy of September 11th, 2001. Thousands of families were affected. Husbands and wives lost their spouses. Children lost their mothers and fathers. The grief provoked by such a horrific event cannot be measured. It never really goes away. Five years after the events of September 11th, there remains a terrible void in countless lives. We pray for the survivors. We pray also for those lost their lives so violently, so brutally, and so suddenly, entrusting them to the intercession of the Mother of Sorrows, Comforter of the Afflicted and Pillar of Faith.
Our Lord addresses these words to all of us today: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Jesus invites us to accept the yoke of friendship with Him. He would yoke Himself to each one of us. It is by the yoke of friendship with Him that we are bound to His Sacred Heart.
We are sometimes tempted to shrink from the yoke of Christ. We are afraid that if we allow ourselves to be yoked with him, the weight of His yoke will be crushing and the loss of our freedom oppressive. The truth is that for one yoked to Christ there is an indescribable sweetness and, above all, the certainty of never ever being left alone in life.
In allowing ourselves to be yoked to Jesus by the gift of an intimate friendship with Him, we discover that He is “gentle and lowly in heart.” In the friendship of Christ we find rest for our souls here and in the life to come. The yoke of friendship with Christ is heavy only for those who pull away from Him, for those who resist His love.
The burden of friendship with Christ is light; it is the burden of love, the burden that a father holds in his arms when carrying his little child, the burden that a little boy holds in his hands when offering his mother a bouquet of wildflowers. There is of course the burden of the Cross, but one who loves understands that the Cross is the weight of an immense love. There is the burden of the dead Christ laid in the lap of His sorrowful Mother, but one who loves understands that the weight of that lifeless Body is the price of the world’s redemption.
Finally, we pray today in preparation for the two great feasts that will illumine this week: that of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14th, and that of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the 15th. At Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome, today marks the beginning of a solemn triduum in preparation for the great feast of the Cross. We too can live a triduum here in this Monastery of the Glorious Cross. Today begins a kind of procession to the Cross, the glory of the blessed in heaven, the hope of every pilgrim soul on earth, the deliverance of the souls in purgatory.
There is another way of looking at these three days. We sing of it in the Vexilla Regis: “The royal banners forward go: The Cross shines forth in mystic glow.” The Cross comes toward us. In every Mass, the great unseen mystery is the approach of Crucified Love. The Cross is made present. On the altar as on the Cross, the Victim is present. From the altar as from the Cross, the Eternal Priest pleads for the living and the dead, offering his Precious Blood and displaying His wounds to the Father. We enter today into the very prayer of Christ to the Father; His prayer is our prayer for Ellen Marie Donovan Norton. His prayer is our prayer for Sister Mary Xavier and her family. His prayer is our prayer for the consolation of those who sorrow, and for the healing of wounds seen and unseen.