...........the loss of her son in violent death.


A reflection on the Sunday bible readings



SUNDAY 14 March 2021     


Luke 2.33-35

33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.34Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’




A short passage for us to reflect on today – but one packed with meaning.


You will know the scene well, I am sure – known as the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, shortly after his birth.  You will know too that according to the custom, Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary bring him to the Temple in Jerusalem. This was done in conformity to the Jewish Law, which stated that 40 days after giving birth, a Jewish woman who gave birth to a son, should go to Jerusalem and offer sacrifices. In the case of a first-born son this was an acknowledgement of the child as belonging to the Lord.


Perhaps you can see the scene in your imagination! The couple enter hesitantly. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, the man of prayer, Simeon approaches them, and greets them, as he recognises the child as the Messiah. Then Simeon, with the child in his arms prays to God, in thankfulness that his duty of watching for the Messiah’s coming is completed. The great day has finally arrived. In a moment of deep insight, Simeon also sees the universality of this gift – A Glory for Israel, but also a Light for Revelation to the Gentiles, the non-Jewish world.


As we come to our passage today, Simeon then turns to the child’s parents and he blesses them. Then, more sombrely he speaks directly to Mary, words of great ad terrible portent.

Jesus, the bringer of salvation is also the bringer of tragic division in Israel. Like a rock this Jesus will be the rock on which to stand secure, or the rock on which many will stumble and fall. Jesus will not meet with a universal welcome, some will oppose him, and this opposition will reach such a pitch that Mary will have to face deep grief – as we know, the loss of her son in violent death.


Pope John Paul II, in an encyclical letter explains it this way: -

“While this announcement on the one hand confirms Mary’s faith in the accomplishment of the divine promise of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience in faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Saviour, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.


My mind goes to those many paintings and sculptures of Mary cradling the corpse of her crucified son. These works of art are known as ‘Pieta’ (which means ‘compassion’) and the earliest were created in the early medieval period. However, probably the most well-known is this sculpture in finest marble carved by Michelangelo, probably done in about 1498, in Rome.


It is a heart-breaking reminder of the fulfilment of Simeon’s words to that young mother in the Jerusalem Temple cuddling her tiny baby close.


This Mothering Sunday, let us remember every parent who, whatever the circumstances, faces the loss of a child.

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