Today is the Fifth Day of Christmas, and we are presented with the Gospel of Luke 2:22-35. We read about the Holy Family–Joseph, Mary and Jesus–going to the temple to consecrate Jesus to the Lord, for every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, according to the law. Simeon is “driven by the Spirit” into the temple, where he recognizes the Messiah, receives Him with joy, and prophesies. He tells the young mother, Mary, “…and you yourself a sword will pierce.” The Gospel includes this as a parenthetical note, an interruption of Simeon’s statement about Jesus being a sign that will be contradicted.
Here we have Mary –the mother of the Messiah, who we recently learned is greatly favored, who all generations will call blessed, who should fear not because the Lord is with her–being told that her future will not be all ease, comfort and glory. Right from the beginning of Jesus’ life, the Father was preparing Mary for her extraordinary role and making her aware that it was to involve pain. How just hearing these words must have hurt Mary.
The Lord knows how my own faith has been tested in times of trial. Yet, the way of the Christian–indeed, the way of life, is joyful but is also touched by sorrow and difficulty. The book of Sirach advises, “Child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials…” Jesus Himself told us to “count the cost” of discipleship, to “take up your cross” daily, and to build your foundation on rock for when the floods come, not if they come.
So, how did Mary react to Simeon’s words that her heart would be pierced by a sword? All the Gospel of Luke says is that Jesus’ parents were amazed by what was spoken about Him, and that after they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law, they returned to Nazareth, Jesus became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon Him. To me, this says that Mary simply continued loving Jesus, nurturing Him, caring for Him, praying with Him, teaching Him, and mothering Him, all while praying and pondering the Scriptures and the words of Simeon as well as the events of their lives while asking for God’s guidance, protection and light. She had to live a life of faith, just as you and I do. She had to go about the duty of the day and the moment, just as you and I do. She had an irreplaceable role to fulfill, just as you and I do. She would not be held back by fear or dread, but would press on with trust in the Father.
Holy Mother, pray for us–we know that you are no stranger to pain and confusion. Show us how to be at peace and to live abandoned to God’s providence in all situations, nurturing the life of Christ within us day by day, as you did. Help us to remember these words by Simeon to you, “…you yourself a sword will pierce.”