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And when I did…it was fire.
All I could think about was wanting to go out, and set the world ablaze for this man that I had discovered to be so passionate in his love for his people. In a way, he had struck a match in my soul, that I couldn’t let out of my sight. This whole world, for Christ.
But as I sit down across the coffee table now, face-to-face with these beautiful young women, who file by one by one to open up their hearts, with lives full of questions and insecurities and uncertainties…there’s a mother-heart in me that recognizes a secret:
In the soul of a woman, often fire is expressed in mercy.
Mercy to listen to them, to understand them…to be moved by the fire to come down from the mountain, to go out into his people. And then, pierced by their weakness, just as he was…to allow that fire to rush out on the world in cooling mercy.
There is something so beautiful in that fire of mercy, whose intensity can often be cloaked in the gentleness of that healing touch expressed in the richness of a mother’s soul. It is the mingling of the blood and water–the fire, and the mercy–that rushed out on the world from the heart of our crucified king. Pierced by the weakness of our own people, there is something in us also as mothers that, “when lifted up” on the cross of our own life’s sacrifice, we feel that movement to bring all things to herself at the foot of the Cross, and present them to her king.
What does that look like?
It’s that healing touch of a mother’s empathy. It’s the daily presence of the heart on fire–like Moses’ burning bush–that radiates the burning love of God in a way that allows the Moses’ of our world to approach without resistance. It’s the personal gaze of a mother, that builds up, encourages, nurtures…in a real way, an expression of that fire of mercy that allows us to kneel before our people–at the shoulder of our hidden king– and do exactly what he did in the streets of his people: to bind up their wounds, heal their ills. In a certain way, the consecrated woman reflects–in her motherhood–the promise that the messiah-king of our people would bring healing and restore the kingdom of God from the inside.
In coming to imitate the heart of this king–pierced, that unleashes that flood of fire and mercy–we find beauty and strength in the heart of Mary, Mother of Sorrows.
What does the heart look like, that kneels before the pierced heart of her crucified king?
You yourself a sword shall pierce.
In the mother of Sorrows, we find the tender love of a beating heart…and the fierce strength of devotion. Mercy, and fire. In the experience of this love that compels her to stand at the foot of her son’s cross, what happens?
She is pierced. As she beholds her son, struggling for breath, exposed to the world…she experiences in her heart, torn and bleeding, “Behold your king.”
And his reply, his dying words, come to her in a torrent of unrepeatable mercy that rush out from his pierced heart…“Behold your son.”
It is a crucifying, strengthening intimacy: the heart of a mother, before the pierced heart of her son. There is a reverence before the sacred fire of a man’s suffering. And for this woman, who has experienced in the harrowing depths of her own soul, that sacred suffering of the crucified king…his words to her echo in her soul for the rest of her life, walking within the streets of her people.
“Woman…behold your son.”
Behold–woman consecrated to Christ– in the beauty of your memories with him, the sufferings of the crucified who captivated your heart.
And then–at his desire–behold the people he came to save…who suffer for lack of Christ. Who die for desire for God. Who are lost, and forgotten. Like sheep without a shepherd.
Behold a world that has been forgotten by their own.
In the strength of the gaze of her Lord, perhaps it is Mary who senses in herself what she even now experiences at the foot of the Cross: the torrents, the waves of mercy that are waiting to be poured on a thirsty world. The world that his bloodshot eyes are drawn to, even now, in his agony.
The intimacy of the Cross is where the quiet depths of a woman’s heart is formed.
Calvary is the space hewn within her, that gives her the capacity to receive the weaknesses of her people–their insecurities, their doubts–and to bring them to the fountain of mercy at the pierced heart of her king.
To love his people, by receiving them into her life:
to build their belief in the tenderness of affection,
to quietly challenge them to stand by their Cross, as she stood by her own.
To build, moment by moment, the kingdom of God in the soul of each of his children…
that is the fire of mercy
expressed in the heart of a woman.