Becoming a parent is a profoundly meaningful, deeply moving, beautifully life-changing moment. It also opens up a whole vista of possibilities, uncertainties, and challenges. How will we provide for this child? What will we teach him? What will he become? Even entering into this with strong faith and firm hope, parenthood requires a great deal of prudence, resilience, adaptability, generosity, and self-sacrifice.
Parents cannot help but hear deeply every comment made about their child. “Your baby is so beautiful!” “He’s getting so big!” “He’s so alert!” “He seems a little cranky…” “Is he rolling over yet?” Each word can make a mother’s heart soar with joy, rest contentedly, begin to fret, or ache with pain. Surely this was true for the parents of Jesus as well.
Obeying the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph travel to the Temple to present the baby Jesus to the Lord, bringing the prescribed sacrifice. God again enters the Temple, but quietly. No one notices anything about this poor, young family. No one recognizes this Child, except Simeon (and Anna, see tomorrow’s Gospel). Simeon is awaiting the Messiah, watching for the Promised One, and the Holy Spirit leads him to this quiet little family. And then he says words that amaze the parents: “This child is our salvation! This child is light! This child is the glory of Israel!” How the parents hearts must have rejoiced at these words, this confirmation that God was powerfully at work already.
But then, Simeon addresses different words to Mary: “This child will be contradicted. A sword will pierce through you too.” It must have felt like the sword was already in her at those words. Why was this necessary? “So that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
I’ve always marveled that the 5th Joyful Mystery of the Rosary is also the 1st Sorrow of Mary’s Heart (see https://catholic-link.org/the-seven-sorrows-of-mary-why-you-should-know-them-and-pray-them-2/ ). In this life, joy is always tinged with sorrow, and sorrows also have their joys. In this case, Mary’s intimate bond with Jesus would mean that her YES to the angel at the Annunciation was a YES to full motherhood and all that being the Mother of God would demand. She would feed him, clothe him, teach him, pray, and suffer with him, all the way to the Cross. She would snuggle him, marvel at him, anticipate his needs, ponder his heart. She would be his mother, and when Jesus gave all of humanity to her from the Cross (“Behold your mother.”), she would – as the New Eve – be Mother to everyone who becomes brother and sister of Jesus through Baptism.
Mary and Joseph are not just Christmas decorations. They are real Christians, real parents, who experienced real hardship, and lived by real faith and hope and love! And now they are real intercessors who understand our needs and can really pray for us to the Son of God, who was also their son. And a son always listens attentively to his parents.
Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.
Feature Image Credit: dodo71, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/mosaic-scene-people-jesus-parents-5265359/