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And a sword will pierce your very soul

Updated: May 8, 2023

There’s a story in the Bible about Mary and Joseph bringing the baby Jesus to the temple for his dedication. Nowadays, we would relate to it as a baptism in a similar-but-not-quite kind of way. There happened to be an older man there, a prophet named Simeon, who was full of the Spirit and who had been promised by God that he would see the Savior of the world before he died. Simeon sees the baby, holds him, lifts him in prayer, and prophesies about this child: destined to be the Messiah. Then Simeon gives the baby back to Mary, telling her how important her child is, and concludes by saying, “and a sword will pierce your very soul”.

What? Did she really need to hear this so soon in the game? Did she really need to ponder these words for the next 33 years?

And then it actually happened:

A sword did pierce her very soul.

After my son Chad died, several trusted friends would comfort me (and it did help, I must say) by telling me to think about Mary’s loss. That she knows the pain I’m going through because she went through the worst. I couldn’t disagree with that line of thinking, and spending time in the quiet imagining Mary and all these things was sort of helpful. But after a few times of doing this, I started thinking.

And in my less-than-benevolent moments, I thought: “Yeah but she got to see her son again a few days later.” As if she had it better than I. As if there is such a thing as comparing pain. And as if one should do that with the ultimate Mother, for goodness sake. After a while, my heart softened. I invited her into my quiet time again, asking for her prayers, for her strength, for some insight.

And then I had a moment of realization. Her son may have risen three days later, but then he left again! She still had to live without him. She still had to hang out with all his friends, which couldn’t have been easy. She still had to walk in the moccasins that I now walk in. And chances are her moccasins were more worn out than mine.

I mean, most of the people in her community thought her kid was crazy and probably whispered (or worse) about him behind her back.

She, me, all of us.. with our stories.. some seeming better, some seeming worse, some with a heavier “stigma,” none that can or should be compared.

And yet here we all are:

With a sword that pierced our very souls.

Hey Mother Mary, if you have a minute, please say a prayer for us down here.

Help our bleeding-out-souls. Because, as you probably already know, there's an emergency down here - and we're it.

(originally posted on July 31, 2021)

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