Today’s Gospel: Luke 2:22-40
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
Put yourself in the temple. You become Mary. Now, go ahead . . . hold your baby Jesus. Feel the tiny weight of his perfect body in your arms. Count his precious toes, and lean down to kiss that warm baby neck. You are just a child yourself, remember. A teenage girl. The plan you had for your future ended the moment you said, “Yes”. And here you are with Joseph. Go ahead, and turn to look at him. He has stuck by you. Despite the confusion and the fear and, no doubt, the gossip and comments from the town, he is still by your side. You are a family. And what the future holds, you have no idea.
But you never waver. Your trust and love for God is so deep, that you never, ever waver. And so here you are, presenting your beautiful baby at the temple. Simeon comes over, full of the Holy Spirit, reaches out to you and gently takes Jesus out of your arms. He looks into his eyes and says to him:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”
Now, how does that make you feel? Because the Gospel writes that Mary and Joseph were “amazed.” But as I imagine that I am Mary, I hear Simeon’s words to my baby, and yes, I am amazed, but I am also confused and afraid. I am not even sure I understand any of it. Not to mention the fact that he took the baby from me, and into his own arms! That alone would have been cause for great anxiety! When I was a new mom, I couldn’t stand it when people reached out to take my baby. And it wasn’t so much that I feared they had germs, or would drop him. I just couldn’t stand the separation. And as if that were not enough, after Simeon blesses Mary and Joseph, he specifically says to Mary:
“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted—and you yourself a sword will pierce—so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Now, how does that make you feel? Are you still imagining you are Mary? Do you still have yourself in her place, and are you hearing those words about the life of your newborn son? About the physical pain it will cause you? About his rise and fall? And is your heart racing with fear? Because mine is! I am scared. I have no idea what any of this means, and the unknown is horrifying. I am so young, and all I know is that I love this child of mine fiercely and will do anything to protect him. And if I am being honest, I want to protect myself as well.
You see, we need to do this. We need to put ourselves in the story. We need to remember that Mary was a real human being, with every kind of emotion you and I have. We tend to believe that because she so willingly agreed to be the Mother of God, and because she was sinless, that faithfulness was somehow easier for her than for you or me. We reduce her to a pretty plastic statue on our shelf, peaceful and humble, smiling and joyful. We fail to recall the utter sorrow, the piercing pain she endured. We forget that everything we experience as a new, unsure mom, as a worried mother of a teenager, as an older mom who has to let her child go, Mary experienced too. There is nothing we have felt or will feel as a mother that Mary has not felt herself.
So I can close my eyes and imagine I am there. I can pretend I am Mary and Jesus is my Son. And what this shows me is how very unlike Mary I am.
My faith and trust in God is so easily shaken when I see my children suffer, when I myself must endure suffering. If I truly were Mary, standing in that temple, the first thing I would have done is look up to the heavens and in anger shout, “I did not sign up for this! You never told me it would be this hard! You fooled me into thinking I could do this!” Then, I would have grabbed my son back, and I would have run. And I can’t promise you I would have waited for Joseph to keep up with me.
Fear. Fear is what kills faith. Fear is what destroys marriages and families. Mary, no doubt, was afraid, but her faith was bigger. She never gave in to the desire to do her own will, no matter how hard life got. She stayed faithful to God, from that first “yes,” to fleeing Bethlehem to Egypt, to standing at the foot of the cross. STANDING. This is the Mary I adore. The Mary who never wavers. The Mary, who without all of the answers to her questions, still says, “Yes”. The Mary, full of grace, who in the face of the worst evil, stands.
Oh, how I pray for a faith like our Mother Mary’s.
Stay there in the temple a while, hold your baby, and ponder all these things in your heart.
Sweet Virgin Mary, you never wavered, you always trusted, your “yes” was without hesitation. Pray for all of us mothers who allow fear, anxiety, and doubt, to keep us from standing. Keep our hearts close to yours, our path straight to your Son, and our “yes” firm and strong, no matter the circumstance. We love you, we adore you, and we ask all of this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.