THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH
“ – and you yourself a sword will pierce – “ Luke 22
Everyone loves a good story.
From the time we’re little children, we become fascinated with stories. At first, we want someone to read to us. Then we start creating our own stories via crayons. Finally, we get to the stage where we begin watching TV, falling in love with certain shows, and waiting anxiously until the next episode arrives.
The love of stories is why we go to movies and read novels and listen to the latest scoop about whomever and follow a podcast phenomenon like Serial.
Stories are so important to us, in fact, that one writer has even dared to say that “God made humans because God loves stories.”
What this writer is suggesting is that each one of us is a story all our own – a story that our God loves to listen to. It’s almost like we can picture God saying about each one of us: “Go on. Tell me more.”
Luke, the writer of today’s gospel, is one of the great storytellers of all time. He seems to understand at a very deep level that we all love stories because we can place ourselves in them, identify with the characters, and make them our own.
Christmas is arguably one of the most beloved stories ever told. It’s the story of a God who loves each one of us so much that he leaves the heavens and “pitches his tent among us,” as one translation puts it.
It’s the story of how this same God enters fully into our world, and, from that moment on, dwells among us, dines with us, rejoices with us, cries with us, bleeds with us, triumphs with us.
In today’s gospel, though, Luke takes the story of the birth of Jesus to another level. He introduces Jesus to the community of faith that his parents are a part of. It now becomes a story that expands the private intimacy of Mary and Joseph into the larger world of the Jewish community, and all of society.
Luke’s story ultimately becomes one that tells the tale of the creation of a whole new spiritual family – the one that we all are a part of. But notice that within the beauty of this story, Simeon, the representative of the entire history of Jewish faith, takes the child Jesus into his arms, turns to Mary, and says to her: “you yourself a sword will pierce.”
Gone from this scene are the angels singing “Glory to God in the highest.” Gone from this part of the story are the shepherds and their wonder and amazement. Gone is the serenity of the manger.
Instead, a note of darkness enters the story.
A primary symbol of who Jesus is and what he will bring to the world is now introduced: a sword. The sword represents the decision that each of us has to make in writing the story of our own lives.
Jesus’ hope and plea is that we will use this sword in the most positive of ways: as an instrument that will cut through to the very heart of our humanity so that we can be liberated from the slavery of destructive patterns of living.
What that sword can do, that sword that is Jesus’ own life of love, is give us the ability to bring into our lives a degree of freedom – the freedom to live out those graces that our second reading today emphasizes so strongly: “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Our life is a story – a story that God delights in reading.
How will yours read?
Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.