Tuesday, September 15, 2009

And Your Heart Will Be Pierced By A Sword

First Reading: Hebrews 5:7-9.

Even though Jesus was Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, when he took human form and flesh as the Son of Mary, he shared all of the experiences which we endure. As a toddler, when he fell and scraped his knee, it bled, and he cried. like a baby. As a teen, before his Bar Mitzvah, he lost track of time, and stayed in the Temple discussing God’s word with the priests and teachers, and the caravan back to Galilee left without him. As a grown man, “he offered prayers and pleadings with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to rescue him from death”. (Heb. 5:7) The meaning of this verse is not clear. It appears that Jesus was praying that he would not have to die. That may well be the case.

Jesus knew that he had been sent from God to take upon himself the burden of all human sinfulness, and he accepted that mission, knowing from all eternity that it would cost him his human life. At Gethsemane, he was so overwhelmed with fear that his blood oozed from his pores like perspiration (a genuine medical phenomenon caused by terror). From the Cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, let this burden pass from me”; but quickly followed “Yet, not my will but yours be done”. This is a vivid reminder that no aspect of human nature was foreign to him, and that, like ourselves, he sometimes found the dark side of his humanity rather hard to control. It is a truth we need to remember not only when we are reading (or writing) a reflection on the Scriptures, but especially when our emotions (positive or as well as negative) seem difficult to rein in.

The eternally begotten Son of God has always been perfect, when he accomplished the mission for which He was sent, he offered his own life in reparation for the sins of his brothers and sisters from the first man and woman ever created, to the people who will be alive in the flesh at his second coming. By doing this, He accomplished a mission that no mere human person could fulfil: As the Son of God, he had status equal to the Father, and was qualified to offer this ransom to the Creator. In so doing, Jesus becomes the source of new and eternal life for his human sisters and brothers. We grow in this new life – the life of grace, when we place our confidence in him. « Jesus, I trust in you! »

Gospel: Luke 2:33-35

When the time had come, Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised. There was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was a good man, who loved God. He was waiting for the Messiah to come and save the people of Israel. The Holy Spirit had promised that he would not die until the Redeemer came.

When Mary and Joseph brought the child to Temple for his circumcision, Simeon took the baby in his arms and praised the Lord, “Now, Lord, your servant can die in peace, because I have seen your salvation, for all to see. This child will be a light to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.

Mary and Joseph were astonished what Simeon had said about the child. But they were even further astounded when he continued his prophesy: “This child will cause the rise and the fall of many in Israel. He will be a sign of contradiction. And your heart will be pierced by a sword, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

+++    +++    +++    +++

A Mother's Meditation on Our Lady of Sorrows

Sometimes we come across people who have a special quality – an ability to listen deeply; a sense of peace in their lives; a deep compassion that shows itself quietly. Their sense of faith and trust in God is palpable and they are the people we might turn to instinctively when we need help. Often we discover later that these remarkable people are ones who have suffered great loss and have found some meaning for their lives in it.

That’s what today’s Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is all about. The Church offers us this centuries-old tradition of turning to Mary with our misery and grief, and seeing her as someone, like us, who has suffered greatly.

We all have pain and suffering in our lives. Even the most privileged of us have to deal with this very human experience. We face the death of a beloved family member, especially devastating when it is a child. Part of life is our own aging and diminishment and a growing awareness of our physical and mental frailty or the worries we have about our children, our grandchildren and other family members. The profound disappointments of life – the state of our marriages; the realilty of the youthful life dreams we once had; or perhaps disappointment in the decisions made by our children – are part of the experience of so many of us. Sometimes there is the anxiety of waiting for the results of medical tests and the unknown changes to us and our family if the results are bad.

Beyond the scope of our own personal world, we see poverty and racial strife in our own cities, mistrust and conflict among our national leaders and a world torn by war, religious divisions and a terrible mistreatment of women and children.

How do we live with this, share this experience or make sense of it? When Simeon met Mary and Joseph in the Temple and saw the infant Jesus, he knew that Jesus was “destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel,” but Simeon also was predicting that Jesus’ life would cause Mary tremendous sorrow. She had the pain and emptiness as her son left their home and town for the unknown life of a teacher. Not only did she probably miss his presence, but she had to open her heart and ask God to help her let go. She knew her son needed to leave and fulfill his call, but she did not always understand it. Her confidence in him was clear as she paved the way for her son’s first miracle at the wedding in Cana. “Do as he tells you,” is all she whispered to the servants.

She saw him move out farther into the region, accompanied by an unimportant group of ragtag followers that puzzled some. She listened as Jesus became more outspoken against the religious authorities. Her stomach had a knot that was hard to ignore as she heard the growing grumblings against him from those who were threatened. Finally, she was there as he was arrested, humiliated, and executed. This was her own son, once her cherished little boy, now the beloved man with whom she had such a deep bond of love and faith. She watched as he was spit on and tortured and finally endured the crucifixion. While other followers ran, Mary stood there at the foot of the cross, looking up at her son’s agonizingly slow death.

Mary is a woman who has suffered deeply in life. This is a very real and very human Mary, who understands our losses and tragedies.

Dear Mary,

Help me to see you more clearly as a mother, a sister, daughter and friend. Help me to turn to you and to your son, Jesus with my own sorrow. Sometimes my heart is paralyzed by fear and pain and I don’t know where to start. Let me unlock my heart to God freely, as you did, and let me feel the peace and love of Jesus flooding into the heart I have opened.

Maureen McCann Waldron
The Collaborative Ministry Office
Creighton University

No comments: