Lent 2017 started this week with Ash Wednesday. I feel called to spend this Lenten season with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Each week during the six weeks in Lent I will share a reflection on one of the passages about Mary, and provide some thoughts for you to contemplate on your own Lenten journey. You can pick and choose from these questions to create a daily meditation, or you can set aside just one day or specific days each week in Lent for reflection using the Biblical passage and questions as a guide. If you choose to make this a multi-day experience, read the passage again each time, for fresh insight.
There are not many references to Mary in scripture. We will leave the Annunciation and Birth narratives to the Advent and Christmas season. That leaves us a few passages about Jesus as a baby (the presentation at the temple and flight to Egypt), Jesus at age 12, the wedding in Cana, Jesus references to his family during his ministry and the crucifixion, all where Mary is referenced. The only other places she is mentioned is at Pentecost (Acts) and in Revelation. During this six week Lenten journey with Mary we will focus only on those passages in the middle, after Jesus’ birth up through his crucifixion.
So let’s start with the passage known as the Presentation in the Temple. Read Luke 2:22-39 with a prayerful intention of being in Mary’s shoes. Jesus is just a few weeks old now (40 days). I try to imagine the craziness of the temple environment with the thousands of people there each day, the commotion, the smells with food vendors and animals for sacrifice being purchased and slaughtered, the cacophony of sounds between the myriad of people speaking a variety of languages, the music of the priestly Levites, the sounds of the slaughter. Add to that scene two very young, poor, homesick, and, most likely, frightened parents and a baby.
It’s not Mary’s first rodeo. She would have been coming to the temple with her family at least three times each year for the Pilgrim Festivals, standing with her mother in the Women’s Court. But this is a first for her, in that she is holding her first child, and offering her first purification sacrifice. But then, Simeon, a wise man, takes her baby up into his arms and prophesies over him. And she, along with her husband, marveled (verse 33). I try to imagine what that must have felt like, to have that experience, to have someone prophesy over a child of mine. And then Simeon speaks directly to Mary using difficult words, “…a sword will pierce through your own soul…” I try to imagine her fear, her confusion. I wonder, is she is having second thoughts? Wouldn’t it have been much easier if she hadn’t said “yes” to birthing the Messiah? She must be exhausted, and now this? How can she do this hard thing?
Thoughts for contemplation
Use these thoughts as a springboard for prayer, whether through journaling, creating art, silent thought, spoken words or some other form of prayer.
- Remember a time when you had come to the end of yourself and didn’t think you could go on. Maybe that time wasn’t so long ago. How might God have been there when you hadn’t noticed? How did God help you to get through? If you have not thanked God for being there, do so now.
- Imagine you are a close friend to or relative of Mary and you have been with her through all that she has experienced. What do you learn about Mary? What do you learn about yourself? Tell God about what you have learned.
- Maybe you have a close friend or relative who is currently going through a painful experience. If you have accompanied them on this journey, what have you learned about yourself that you didn’t know? What, in this experience, might you consider a blessing, hard as that may seem? Talk with God about what is/has been going on and and thank God for this blessing.
- When was the last time you “marveled” at something? If it has been a long time, try to find something about which you can marvel … nature, art, music, a sunset. Dwell in this experience as long as you are able, then share with God from a thankful and full heart.
- If you are a person who prays best through action, find some way this week to be an encouragement to someone who might be going through a hard time.
- Listen to this Carrie Newcomer song “You Can Do This Hard Thing” from the standpoint of God singing this over you. Or, put yourself in Mary’s shoes and imagine this being sung over her. Then, respond to God in whatever way you are called.
Blessings to you!