One of the most significant people within the Christian story is Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. For many (although by no means all) Christians, Mary is an enduring figure of faithfulness and love. In this early passage from St Luke’s Gospel, Mary and Joseph visit the Temple to give thanks for the birth of their son. Whilst there, they encounter a holy man named Simeon who has seen that Jesus will be the saviour of Israel. He blesses the child, but informs Mary that because of Jesus’ calling and mission, ‘a sword will pierce your own soul.’
This passage from St Luke’s Gospel – which is typified by its concern for women, the poor and the marginalised – sheds some light on to Mary’s lasting appeal. She was the one who conceived and bore Christ, who cared for him throughout his youth, witnessed his ministry, and at the last stood at the foot of the cross and watched him die. The burden she bore was so great because she loved Jesus not as a friend or a follower but as a mother. Such love causes suffering, and a grief so acute that it feels like a piercing sword. For all who have experienced such grief – and known such love – Mary’s burden is a burden they can share.
We live in a world in which many know the suffering and soul-piercing sorrow of Mary – refugees torn from their loved ones by war, people who have been bereaved, and all those who feel rejected and unloved. Can we help to share their burden? This may involve welcoming new people into our communities, visiting a lonely neighbour or going out of our way to show people that we care about them.
Do we appreciate the close relationships within our own lives? Do we let our friends, families and partners know how much we love them or do we take them for granted? Although love can bring grief, it also brings life into its fullness and shows us the face of God.
O God of Joy and Sorrow, teach us by the example of Mary to bear the burden of grief with love, and to share the burdens of others in the same love. May he who offered his life for love upon the cross bring us at the last to life everlasting. Amen.
Written by Alexander Taylor, SCM member.