Wow. Just wow.
You never know when reading a children’s book is going to completely peel your paint.
My daughter was sick yesterday with a fever, so I didn’t send her to her catechism class this evening. Which was too bad, because she was looking forward to the little party her class was having to which parents were invited to kick off the Year of Faith. There were to be snacks and games and prizes. I remembered to call her teacher beforehand to let her know Felicity would be missing, and the teacher (who lives only about seven doors down from us) dropped off my daughter’s portion of the stash of goods for this party before leaving to teach the class.
So while I was in the middle of a rosary, my daughter brought in these things to me and we took the little quizzes and played the games. And then she handed me the book The Holy Family by Fr. Jude Winkler. I read it to her. Then she took her stash back downstairs, and I sat and had a good heart-to-heart with the Blessed Mother, thanked her profusely, and shed more tears as I finished that rosary with new faith.
Because I was made to know something that had just never entered my radar before, ever.
The book simply presents everything the Scripture says about Joseph and Mary and their relationship with Jesus, and His with them. Consider this from Mary’s perspective. For 30 years she lived in daily contact with Jesus. Joseph died at some point; Jesus was her sole support. I’m sure they did not live in isolation from the community, but I’m sure they didn’t spend a lot of time in frivolous socializing, either. Imagine what it must have been for her to live in this kind of communion with her Son.
Then one day, it happens. Jesus is 30, and it is time for Him to go ministering. He leaves, and entrusts her to relatives. For the first time since she was very young, Mary is without Jesus.
They see each other only rarely, Scripture says. There’s the wedding at Cana, before He’s gone too far from home. Some would see it that he was disregarding her request at first. Then there’s the episode where Mary and those relatives come to see Jesus, and Jesus uses it as a teaching moment to say those who hear the Word of God and obey it are his mother and brother and sister. Hardly a response full of enthusiasm to run out and meet Mom. And then where does Mary find Him? At the end of the road, carrying His cross on the way to Calvary. Being crucified. Dead.
Jesus had lots of disciples, 12 apostles, and several women who followed them to care for their needs, and good friends like Mary, Martha and Lazarus. But it is not reported that His mother was among His followers. It was the Father’s will that Jesus travel about and preach; it was the Father’s will that Mary not join Him. It was the Father’s will that they endure this separation.
I can only imagine that Mary prayed constantly for the success of Jesus’ ministry and His apostles and for hearts to be opened to receive Him and to love Him as He deserved to be loved. Her prayers could not stop the intrigue that caused His death.
But I think the sword that pierced her heart was not only on Good Friday, but in relinquishing Him for three whole years. She was sinless, but she was completely and only human. Would this not have hurt deeply, to not be able to be at her Son’s side at every step? Would she not have missed Him horribly? Would it not have grieved her that He was rejected in Nazareth? She is a mother, after all!
And yet, she wouldn’t do the sorts of things I would be, and am, tempted to do, like be bitter and snarky and refuse to say hi when she did see Him, or complain to her friends about how He was treating her, or refuse to pray because of what a bum deal God was giving her. She faced the Father’s will with an open heart, even when her openness meant receiving the sword. Only she who had such a unique relationship with the Lord could experience the unique sacrifice of being without Him in the way she was.
In the particular difficulty that I currently navigate, I am clearly not sinless, and it is not so clear-cut and concrete a situation as Mary’s. But long before this difficulty became what it is today, I entrusted the situation over and over and over to our Blessed Mother, asking her to make of it everything she wants. As I told my husband recently, I can’t imagine what the Blessed Mother wants most is the mess it all currently is. This very morning I thought to myself Wow, I’ve prayed and prayed and it seems like heaven has failed me. But tonight as I gazed into the eyes of the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, I prayed, Thank you for showing yourself a mother to me. You are not asking anything of me that you have not experienced yourself, only I require so much in the way of being purified from sin, and you teach me by your pure example. Let me stay with you in Nazareth, let me pray in faith, and let me embrace everything the Father wills with an open heart.