14 March 2010

Luke 2:33-35

"And a sword will pierce your own soul too." (v.35)


On this Mothering Sunday, these few verses remind us of the double-edged sword of parenthood. They capture all the wonder and amazement - verging upon sheer disbelief - of Mary and Joseph, as they received and struggled to make sense of the weight of prophecy, the rumours of greatness, that they heard spoken of their tiny precious baby. As new parents they had already lived through the difficult circumstances of Jesus' birth, and must have been very mindful of their responsibilities to care for, nurture and protect this young, growing life.

In addition to these natural parental concerns, however, and the wonder of love unfolding in their arms, Mary and Joseph received from Anna and Simeon in the Temple words of promise and words of darker intent (Luke 2:25-32, 36-38). These verses act as a bridge between the prophecies of these two devout people. Simeon, saw in the child "light for revelation to the Gentiles", and from Anna they learned that their tiny baby carried within his person the whole weight of expectation and longing of the people of Israel - "all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem". In these verses, therefore, the writer of Luke's Gospel manages to focus for us the hopes of all humankind.

Mary, who had carried Jesus within her own womb, and now carried him in her arms, was forewarned of the pain to be born not only in his body but in her own, at an unspecified time in the future. The particularity of this mother and child also speaks to us of the universal experience of parenthood: parents feel deeply both the joys and grief of their children, and they cannot protect their children - or themselves - from all the pain and risks of living. We also glimpse in this verse how true it is that a child, in turn, can shape the life of the parent.

While these words were specifically addressed to Mary, they are a reminder to all of us of the deep interdependence of life itself. Our lives are deeply bound with the lives of others - especially those whom we hold deeply in our love and care.

To Ponder

A helpless new born baby, held in his mother's arms. How does this image speak to you of God's grace?

Is it possible to be thankful for the pain we feel on another's behalf? How have painful times strengthened your ties of family or friendship?

On this Mother's Day, who are those who have carried you in their hands or hearts, for whom you are thankful?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Liz Smith

Liz is currently chair of the Leeds Methodist District. She has conducted research into the Church as a learning community, with particular reference to the experience of women.