"Mama, how old was Jesus when He died?"
"We believe He was around 33 years old."
"Why did He have to grow up so fast?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, He was born in the Winter and He died in the Spring--that's not very long, so why did He have to grow up very fast and get His job done so quickly?"
As far as I know, the period between Christmas Eve and Good Friday has no formal liturgical name. Sure, there are seasons in between--there's Epiphany, and there's Lent of course--but as a whole, how are we to understand the spaces between one holy season and the next?
For me, this particular space is bracketed by Mary, who was granted the privilege to cradle the newborn King at His birth and the Redeemer of the World at His death. Mary--who rocked the baby Jesus to sleep, the one to whom the toddler Jesus ran for comfort when He fell and skinned His knees--the woman who knew the child Jesus' favorite color and His favorite food, knew His favorite childhood games, the things that made Him laugh, understood His fears and delights and ambitions.
The mother in me understands Mary in ways I could never have imagined before my own child was born. Now:
- I am certain, as she heard the crowd cry out for her Son's execution that her first instinct was to shred each person there to bits with her bare hands.
- I am certain, as she watched her precious child walk the path to His crucifixion that she must have yearned with every fiber of her being to make it all better, to wipe His face clean and bandage His bleeding knees and to take the cross off His shoulder and fling it at the soldiers who put it on Him.
- I am certain, as she heard His words of comfort and forgiveness to those who witnessed His suffering, that her heart must have burst with a horrible mix of pride and sorrow that only the mother of Her own Saviour could comprehend.
- I am certain that when Mary stood at the foot of the cross, it must have felt to her like only yesterday when she first held her sweet, new baby.
- And I am certain, as she held her bruised, battered, lifeless Son in her arms, that she wondered to herself where she had gone wrong, what she could have done differently, how she could have prevented this horrific end for Her beloved child.
We're like that, we mothers. We think it is all about us. :)
Poor Mary--she could have said NO. She could have saved herself so much pain. Yet she stuck close to this Son who caused her so much trouble. She carried the infant Jesus safely to Egypt when Herod was looking for Him--she searched three days and nights for the preteen Savior when He was lost, only to have Him scold her for being worried about Him when she found Him--and at the end she stuck by Him through His humiliation and apparent defeat.
Through it all, Mary never wavered.
For me, that's the lesson of Mary. It isn't about how I can be more perfect--it's about how I can be more faithful. It's about remembering that He didn't ask me to do it all, but He did command me to try--to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit those who are alone--to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive offenses willingly, to comfort the sorrowing, to pray for everybody, always.
This is why Lent never burdens me. I am not sorrowful, I am not weary. I just try to follow Him. To do what Mary said to do at the wedding at Canna: whatever He says.