I used to be jealous of Mary.
Not because she has the fullness of grace and I don’t. Not because she has the immense privilege of knowing Jesus in His human form, living while He lived. Not because she is closer to God than anyone ever. Not because she has the perfection of virtue.
I was jealous of Mary because she only had to be separated from her loved one, Jesus, for three days.
My mother died extremely unexpectedly when I was 22, and even if I only live to be as old as my mother was when she died (58), that’s still 36 years I will live without her. Mary only had to wait three days for the Resurrection! For the complete fulfillment of promises and the assurance of salvation and unity! I have to wait years.
My mother never was able to meet my husband, as he and I didn’t meet until she had been gone for three years. She will never know her grandchildren. I’m sure there’s a host of other things about me and my life that my mother will never know or experience. And that wounds me. Yet there was not one thing that Mary did or experienced that Jesus was not present for. It’s just not fair.
Ironically, I had always had a great devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows; I always felt close to her sorrowing heart, understood by her, and held closely to her heart. So after my mother died, I did the only thing I really knew how to do—I ran into the arms of Our Lady. At first, though, my relationship with her was strained as I began to question, “What do you know of sorrows? You who only had to sorrow for a little while until her tears were turned into joy? I do not have the fullness of grace and yet I am being asked to carry a load longer than you had to! I am being asked to sorrow in a way that you have no experience in!”
While I felt betrayed in this, I didn’t at the time realize that I had already unlocked the mystery through my questions. I had all the answers I needed if only I would look more closely.
Mary has the fullness of grace. Far from making any sorrows or burdens easier to bear, it makes them more weighty because she has the gifts to understand these trials more deeply and feel them more heavily upon her heart and soul. Where I only catch glimpses, she sees fully. In this way, the three days she was separated from Jesus may have felt like 30! Or even longer. And so, my relationship with Mary began to mend as she asked to once again hold me close to her Sorrowful Heart and I allowed her to.
As it is the Year of Mercy, I have started to read more about God’s mercy, try to understand it better, try to live in it more deeply. I realize now that perhaps being asked to be separated from my mother for a longer period of (earthly) time is a mercy, too. Perhaps it is a mercy to be given the time to grow in virtue and understanding, since I am not imbued with the fullness of grace from birth, instead of having to shoulder the burden of total understanding from the get-go. Mercy is a funny thing; it is both love and justice—justice in what we are due and justice in what we owe. Mercy, in my case, means the Lord gives me glimpses and deepens those glimpses as I go until I am prepared to receive the fullness of understanding and grace (in heaven), rather than letting loose the shock of the fullness upon me when I will not be able to receive or bear it. But it will take me longer. Though the path may look dark, crooked, and sometimes as though it travels in the completely wrong direction, God knows the way that will bring me to the fullness of grace and understanding (and He knows the way that will bring you there, too).
I’m not jealous of Mary anymore. I’m not relieved either, though. Sorrowing and suffering are an intimate part of the Catholic Christian life, and we are only exempt if we do not wish to be united with Christ (which would, in itself, bring eternal suffering—how poetically ironic). But I once again take solace in the Sorrowful Heart of Mary, as I finally understand that she does know exactly what I bear, what I go through, what I long for—and she knows it even better than I do. The years of absence may be long, but eternity is infinite.