Image: Baptism in Tuktoyaktuk
Today we celebrate the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which falls immediately after the feast of the Sacred Heart of her son Jesus. The two celebrations are linked by the theme of love as is signified by the heart.
Yesterday we focused on the relationship between God the Father and the Son and how that love is shared with anyone who is willing to believe. Today’s gospel reading is much more down to earth as it describes a typical family crisis and the depths of a mother’s love for her child.
As Jesus goes missing from the caravan, on the return from Jerusalem, it is not hard to imagine the worry that is felt by his parents. Three days they searched for their son and with each passing hour their emotions would have escalated until they were close to panic.
When Mary and Joseph finally come across Jesus in the temple, seemingly unconcerned about his parent’s distress, Mary’s words are telling. “Child, why have you treated us like this.” We can believe that these few words in the scriptures are the tip of the iceberg of the scolding which Jesus received.
I recall an incident from my own youth when I stayed out long past my curfew. I had assumed that my parents would be asleep and none the wiser, so I hardly gave them a thought. It was not until I arrived home to see the light on in the living room window that I knew I had made a big mistake. As I came in the house both mom and dad were sitting on the couch waiting for me and the hurt I saw in my mother’s eyes is an image I have never forgotten.
A scolding might seem an odd way to talk about a mother’s love, but those of us who have been at the receiving end know what it means. A mother’s love is not always about hugs and kisses. If a strong word and a harsh look is needed to drive a point home a mother will not hesitate, in order to teach and protect the child she loves. To be reprimanded by our mother, while painful in the moment, is a sign to us that we are loved and what would be more painful would be to face indifference and to be left with the impression that nobody cared.
This sign of love is a mother’s burden to bear. An immaculate heart is about purity but not in the sense of being untouched or without blemish. Mary experienced a great deal of pain in her life because of her Son’s mission. We remember how the old man Simeon, in the temple at the presentation of her child, told Mary her Son would bring about the rise and fall of many and that her heart would be wounded also. The purity of heart which Mary exhibited was about her single minded devotion to her Son and to doing the will of God, a task from which she never wavered even when it broke her heart and left her at the foot of the cross of her dying son.
Let us say a prayer of thanksgiving for the mothers in our lives, those who have protected and nurtured us and who have let their hearts pour out love for us and we thank God for Mary, the mother of Lord, and our Mother also.