“And a sword will pierce your own soul too”
When Jesus was but forty days old he was taken to the temple by Joseph and Mary to be dedicated. Simeon the Righteous was there to receive the child and he had words that would cause Mary to ponder. Eastern orthodox tradition says that Simeon was one of the seventy who translated scripture into Greek. While he was translating Isaiah he came upon the verse that says "Behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a Son" (7:14) He was flummoxed by the verse and thought an error had been made. As he was about to substitute the word ‘virgin’ with ‘woman’ an angel appeared to him and declared, “You shall see these words fulfilled. You shall not die until you behold Christ the Lord born of a pure and spotless Virgin." He was believed to have been well past two hundred years old when he died.
Imagine the relief when Simeon finally held the Christ child. As he blessed the child he made a vague prophesy concerning his crucifixion. And the words that cause Mary to ponder… “a sword will pierce your own soul, also.” (Luke 2:35)
Mary was a very strong-willed mother who was responsible for rearing a very strong-will child. Can you imagine the sibling conflicts that took place in Joseph’s home. James and Jude and the other siblings of Jesus had to cope with the perfect, sinless older brother. Was there jealously and accusations of favoritism? How does Mary explain to her other children that Jesus is never wrong? How did they react when they were punished for sinful behavior but Christ never did anything worthy of punishment? It was a sword that pierced Mary’s heart.
After the visit of the Magi, Mary learns that Herod the King is determined to kill her son, Jesus. An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and instructs him to take his family to Egypt to escape the danger. Joseph walked in the house one day and said, “Start packing, Mary. We’re moving to Egypt.” How must her heart been pierced! She must leave her home, her family, her friends, and all the things and places that were dear to her to go live in a strange and foreign land. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been had my father walked in one day and said to us, “Pack up, boys. We’re moving to Siberia.”
Herod, the evil king executed his plan. The haunting and terrifying sound coming from the community of Bethlehem was the wailing of mothers who had lost their children to a maniacal tyrant. Mary was able to take Jesus safely to Egypt but her heart must surely have been pierced by the screams of anguish caused by the birth of her son.
We know very little about the early childhood of Jesus. Scripture says he “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. At age twelve he accompanied the family on a journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast. Joseph’s family spent about a week there before returning home to the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. They traveled as a group in a large caravan. After traveling for most of a day they discovered that Jesus was not with them. I can only imagine how Mary’s heart must have been pierced with anguish.
“Mary, is Jesus up there with you?” Joseph asked.
“Why, no dear, I thought he was back there with you.” she replied.
“Oh, this is just great. This can’t be good! We’ve lost the Messiah, the Son of God!” Joseph must have been exasperated.
Every parent has experienced moments of panic when children are unaccounted for but three days must have been a nightmare for her. I remember feeling greatly panicked while Christmas shopping for my wife about a year ago. I had our three year old son along. What was I thinking? While I was trying to make a decision on an outfit for Shannon, he disappeared. Had he walked out the door? Had someone snatched him? How could he disappear like that? He was standing right here beside me just moments ago. He was hiding in the circular racks of clothing as all small children love to do. I was relieved but I reprimanded him firmly.
Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus. He was in the temple amazing the theologians with his vast knowledge of scripture. It seems Mary scolded him. “Jesus, did you not know that we have been looking for you all this time?!?”
Jesus replied, “Woman, I was about my Father’s business in my Father’s house.”
Mary’s heart was pierced over and over again. Though he is mine he belongs as much to others. His relationship with the Father trumps his relationship with me.
It seems Mary’s heart was pierced by the passing of Joseph because he is no longer mentioned . She was likely a single mother now trying to rear Jesus and his siblings.
Twenty one years after the experience in the temple Mary would stand with others at the foot of a cross just outside the city. Her heart would be pierced one last and final time as she watched her beloved son die on a cross for the sins of humanity. So many wonder why this young, poor, peasant girl of Bethlehem was chosen to mother the Son of God. It was because she was strong enough.