Mater Dolorosa vs. the Prosperity Gospel

September 15, 2021
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What kind of title of honor is “Our Lady of Sorrows”? How does the Church expect us to be excited about our call to sanctity if the image of sanctity that she offers is a mother weeping over the death of her only son?

The logic of this title profoundly disagrees with the logic of the so-called “Prosperity Gospel”. Proponents of the Prosperity Gospel claim that bodily health and material fortune are signs of God’s favor and that God always wills such things for those who are faithful to Him. For obvious reasons, this is a much easier and more appealing Christianity to many—doesn’t God want us to be happy?

But the problem is that the Prosperity Gospel contradicts the teaching of our Lord against attachment to material goods, refuses to imitate Him in His passion, and ignores the message of the book of Job, which shows us that suffering is not always a consequence of sin, but has a much more profound and mysterious role in Divine Providence. Sometimes, God does permit suffering or poverty in the lives of those who love Him.

Still, despite its mysteriousness, there are some things we can know about what God wills for us: “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28). God does want our happiness, but it cannot ultimately be found in any created good like health or wealth. He wants so much more for us—nothing less than Uncreated Goodness itself. So, when he leads us to the sorrow of the cross, it is because He wants to bring us through it to a glory we do not yet perceive or understand.

In the same way, we see the will of God at work in the suffering of Our Lady. The object of our devotion is not her sorrow by itself but the love for her son which caused it and the hope with which she bore it. Mary is honored as Our Lady of Sorrows, not only because her heart was pierced with sorrow at Christ’s death, but also because tradition holds that she alone persevered in faith through those three days by continuing to believe that, in the apparent absurdity of her son’s passion, the will of God was still at work. In this way, her suffering is a sign of her unfailing hope in the will of God, who responded by raising her son from the dead and crowning her as Queen of Heaven and Earth.

We cannot cheapen the faith by reducing it into a means to riches and we must not settle for a crown that withers when Our Lord is offering us a crown of eternal glory. Instead, let us penetrate our crosses with the light of faith, to see in them opportunities for acts of heroic love and promises of a divine beatitude.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

Br. Andrew Thomas Kang, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE

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