Reflection on the Fourth Station
By The Rev. Cristina Rathbone
Mary couldn’t do much. Even in the face of her son’s terrible and unjust suffering, she roused no protests, gathered no crowds, pleaded with no one. As far as we know, she didn’t even say anything. But she was there, present in love to her son even then witnessing, step by step, the depth of his suffering and by so doing, joining him in it. Again, it’s not much if you look at it one way. But it is everything too, of course. Because through her simple presence to and with him, Mary drew love back into the picture – and so transformed it for both of them.
This, it seems to me, is the work Mary did from the very beginning.
And it is the work we are called to also, even when it seems both too much and too little at the very same time. As I write these words men women and children are being tortured and terrorized across the globe and when they flee to our country for protection we are closing our eyes and shutting our ears and then sending them away by the tens of thousands.
In the face of Mary’s astonishing openness to the suffering of her son, my question, I guess, is simply this: Do I dare do as Mary did? Even as I acknowledge my inability to stop the suffering, do I dare open myself to both meeting and being met by its truth? I will be changed if I do, I know. And it will surely be terrible at times. But if I remain, the way Mary herself remained, if I stay, I know that I too will meet Jesus himself — alive in the people I meet, and in the depths of my own heart as well. Then, perhaps, I will finally be able to say:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.”
The Rev. Cristina Rathbone is an Episcopal priest. She served for ten years as the Canon Missioner for the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, working primarily with homeless and marginally housed women and men in that city. Together with the homeless community, she birthed a new faith community named as MANNA (Many Angels Needed Now and Always) which is now a thriving and multi-faceted ministry of the Cathedral. Cristina has spent the past seven months developing the new Bridge Chaplaincy Program for the Diocese of the Rio Grande, helping them find pastoral, incarnate and flexible ways to serve migrants and asylum seekers in Ciudad Juarez and El Paso.
Before being ordained in 2009, Cristina worked as a journalist and author. She is the author of two award winning books of narrative non-fiction: On the Outside Looking In: A Year in the Life of an Inner City High School (Grove/Atlantic Press, 1998) and A World Apart: Women, Prisons and Life Behind Bars. (Random House 2005).