For Lent this year, we have asked eight sisters and associates to reflect on the Beatitudes and offer ways in which we may embrace these blessings in our own Lenten journeys. There will be additional reflections published for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Easter.
By Sister Diane Swanson
Inevitably, we all feel the pain of loss. Disease, old age, death. Anger, hurt, betrayal. Separation, the unfamiliar. We become frightened, anxious.
I think of Luke 2:41–51: “Each year, Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover, and when Jesus was 12 years old, they went up according to the custom. After they completed its days, as they were returning, Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it. After three days of searching, they found him in the temple. ‘Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety. …’” The passage ends, “His mother kept all these things in her heart.”
I believe Jesus did, too. I believe Mary and Joseph must have shared with Jesus their journey to Bethlehem, some of the circumstances surrounding his birth, the need to travel to Egypt, their fear when they thought they had lost him.
Jesus experienced the depth and fullness of human emotion. He understood their fear and anxiety.
What can be learned from fear and anxiety?
Jesus learned to be sensitive to others’ pain and loss and to their ability to cause it, as well. There are many passages in the Gospels that recount Jesus being moved with compassion and even shedding tears:
- In Nain, when Jesus encountered the widow whose son was about to be buried, Jesus saw her pain, was moved with compassion and brought her son back to life. (Luke 7:11–17)
- Before Jesus was betrayed and turned over to the authorities, he was greatly distressed and wept over Jerusalem and the world because they had not followed God’s ways and did not know the things that make for peace. (Luke 13:34)
- When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha were stricken with horrific grief. Jesus not only felt their pain, he wept bitterly with them and brought Lazarus back to life. (John 11:1–43)
Time and time again, Christ shows up, meets people in their darkest hour and encounters them with God’s tender mercy and compassion.
Both Christ’s divinity and humanity uniquely formed who he was. Being the Son of God and the Son of Mary and Joseph revealed to him how God’s love manifests itself in the frailty and anxiety of human history.
When Mary and Joseph remembered and shared the experiences of those early days with Jesus, their anxiety could not have been hidden in the retelling, but neither could their love and their deep trust in God. Jesus would have learned that, too, and so he learned to offer healing and comfort to all he encountered.
Our world continues to mourn the sickness and deaths caused by COVID-19, and we are wrestling with the political turmoil that is ravaging our societies. May we trust that Jesus—who mourned with others and who was tempted and tried in every way—is with us and is bringing healing and comfort as we ourselves reach out to those in need.