In pain you shall bring forth children (Gen. 3:16)
I recently had the great privilege of being with my sister Lauren as she was having her baby. It was quite a profound, intense and beautiful experience. The doctor actually asked her husband and me to each be a stirrup to support her legs.
She went natural which made it all the more intense because all of the child-birthing pains were right there in her face.
Certainly, throughout, I prayed for Lauren, and, of course suffered personally in my own little way as I united with her in her suffering.
Throughout the day I remembered the Scripture in Genesis when God said to the woman, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children…” (Gen 3:16).
As the three o’clock hour rolled around, Lauren’s labor pains became more intense, and the contractions more consistent. We prayed the Mercy Chaplet for her, which seemed especially profound, seeing her before us in agony as we meditated on Jesus agonizing on the cross.
Throughout the labor and delivery I was brought back again and again to Christ on the Cross, with Mary at the foot of the cross sharing in His suffering; and, to the Church teaching that the agony and death of Jesus were like labor pains, which Mary experienced along with Jesus.
During the final stages of the delivery, the doctor said, “push, Lauren!” She was in such great pain but gave it all she had, crying out loudly from the depth of her being, “Aaauuugh!!!!!” And out came the head, and the body to follow.
When Christ was dying on the cross, as well, He was crying out from the depth of His being because, oh, how intense was the pain…both physical as well as mental, emotional and spiritual. Then, “It is finished!” He said, and breathed His last and died for us. And, as His side was pierced, Blood and Water poured forth symbolizing the Birth of the Church.
Yes, how similar in it’s own way. As blood and water poured forth amidst Lauren’s intense suffering, little Frederick was born.
And, what sacrificial love I saw in my sister. Though she experienced such intense pain and suffering, she was doing it out of love for the little one she was bringing forth. And how evident that was as she saw little Frederick for the first time. Her heart and her whole being were fixed on him, not primarily on what she was suffering. What a witness! It stirred up gratitude in my heart for my own mother and all the sacrificial love and suffering that she endured to bring my siblings and me into the world. (Thanks Mom!)
It is a reminder to us all that when mothers have babies, or when any of us suffer in any kind of way, we are called to unite our sufferings with Christ who suffered the most intense pain possible and is our model for self-sacrificing love.
No doubt, throughout Jesus’ suffering, His heart/His whole being, was fixed on us and the re-birth we would all experience as “children of God,” to be drawn into the Father’s Kingdom, to be set free from sin and death and evil. How profound!
And, I cannot go without acknowledging Mary’s role as well. Though subordinate, she played a very significant role in our redemption. The Church teaches that in a certain way she suffered all that Christ did, physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, only the wounds didn’t appear physically on her body. She experienced an interior stigmata, as Simeon prophesied, “and a sword also shall pierce your heart” (Lk 33:35).
To keep all things in perspective, the suffering of a mother giving birth, as great and intense as it is, is but a drop in the bucket compared to the suffering Christ endured for each of us as He took upon Himself the sins of the whole world.
Through this reflection, my gratefulness to Christ for His crucified love for me is stirred up, and I am convicted of the ways I take His redeeming act for granted and lack in my gratitude and thanksgiving for all He’s done. And also, I bow before Mary, the “New Eve – Mother of all the living – in thankfulness for the great labor pains she experienced along with her Son, which led Jesus to say, “behold your mother!”(Jn 19:27).
As with Christ, with Mary and with Lauren, every one of our sufferings can be bittersweet if united with Christ, because somehow, somewhere, new life is born through it: whether it be a beautiful new born baby that is so clearly evident, or the fact that through our sufferings the heart of someone else in the world is brought to new life in God’s love, or a soul in purgatory is relieved a bit from the intensity of their pain (let us always remember them, for they are in constant labor pains of one form or another).
St. Paul tells us that we are called to “make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” In other words, we are called to be “co-redeemers;” sufferers with Christ in order to bring to birth in others what we have received, namely new life in Christ.
Thank you Lauren! for your vulnerability in letting me share in your sufferings and your joys. Love you!
As Mothers’ Day draws near, may we all be inspired with grateful hearts for our Mothers and all the many sacrifices they have made for us throughout our lives. And, let us not forget our most special Heavenly Mother who has and continues to suffer with and for us her beloved children. Vatican II encourages the faithful to “foster a filial relationship with Mary.” This means bonding as mother to child in a real and personal way.
Mary is very much alive and in our midst and her Immaculate Heart is living and beating among us. This is why we hear of statues and pictures of her weeping, not only regular tears, but at times tears of blood. It is a sign of her personal love and care for each of us…a love that engages the human heart…a love that longs to draw us all into “new life” in her Son.