A Very Strange Mother’s Day… May 13, 2012

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It wasn’t really Mother’s Day, since no such holiday existed in Nazareth, Galilee, two thousand years ago. But to Mary, it probably felt very much like a Mother’s Day blessing. Her eldest son, Jesus, had returned home from his traveling and escapades and had been invited to share the scripture in the local synagogue. How proud she must have been! How much she certainly advertised to her friends about the upcoming event. Now, she didn’t totally understand his work. From all of her upbringing, “work” entailed labor, sweat and toil. He had rejected the life of a carpenter to become … well, she wasn’t quite sure WHAT he had become. But she was proud of him–especially on this day, when he was going to be the center of focus during the worship.

The morning arrived. They handed him the Book of Isaiah, and he read a passage about being anointed to preach the gospel to the poor, sent to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, recovering of sight for the blind, to set at liberty those who were bruised and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Mary’s heart was filled with such pride that she was barely able to absorb any of the content, focused on the beauty of his voice and the courtly nature of his demeanor. He closed the book and sat down. She wanted to applaud, but years of propriety prevented such an unacceptable gesture.

Then he did something strange. He spoke again. Usually the reading would conclude the presentation. He told the gathered that today the scripture had been fulfilled in their presence and in their ears. Disruption. It made her nervous when he did such things. Ever since he had been a boy, he had found many moments to grant her pride–but occasionally came up with that bizarre thought that she would have to ponder in her heart.

The people were impressed with his speaking. He continued. He told them that they probably wanted him to share his work in Nazareth as he had in Capernaum, but that “a prophet had no honor in his own country.” He continued by saying that in the days of Elijah there were many widows in Israel who were in need of provision, but God sent Elijah to a Gentile instead. He also said that God did the same thing by ignoring the lepers of Israel and healing a Syrian named Naman.

Mother Mary became more nervous. It seemed that her eldest was trying to incite the gathered and taunt them. Her instincts bore out–because they rose up as a mob, took him outside the city, intending to throw him off the cliff onto the rocks below. How had it gone so wrong? she thought. He escaped through the crowd and continued his work.

It seemed that she was never able to connect with him. Even though she had birthed him and raised him, he had reached a point in his life when his choices had to be his own and his mission born of his spirit alone. Every time she tried to be mother to him, her offerings were rejected. Once, at a wedding feast in Cana, she encouraged him to use his gifts. He pushed her away. She also heard that strange things were going on in his work and she feared for his sanity. So she sent the older children out to bring him home–and he told the crowd that his mother, brothers and sisters were anyone who did the will of his father.

That hurt. A mother wants to know that her son loves her, but also that her influence continues. Matter of fact, throughout his life and work, to some degree they remained estranged. She had to learn what every mother does–that even though you carry your children in your womb, and you wean them, caress them and love them, and your instincts tell you to encourage them but keep them close to your home, still, there comes a time to let them go, maintain a presence of each of them in your in your heart–and step away.

But to her credit, rather than alienating herself and becoming hopelessly offended, she stayed with him. She stayed with him when the tide of public opinion turned against him and he was executed. She remained, along with several other women, to attend to his needs on a Sunday morning, when burial was required, and she was there when the tomb was empty and her eldest son rose from the dead.

She was so glad that on that very strange day of a mother’s pride, back in Nazareth, when the crowd rejected her child, that she didn’t follow in their footsteps. Because being a good mother is understanding that you have birthed a child for the entire world–and for God’s pleasure. Somewhere on the journey, he iwll need to separate and find his way.

Mary was an intelligent woman  and an excellent mother. She let Jesus go, to be who he was supposed to be, making sure that she never broke their bond.

  

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