Given that it's Advent, it means I've had time to do more quiet reading...and real listening...than usual. A side benefit and gift.
One book I picked up yesterday was Karen Edmisten's Through the Year With Mary. This is a little but very lovely book, filled with daily reflections on Mary, the mother of Jesus. I keep it tucked in a corner of my desk with some other special books I like to revisit, but it had been a while since I'd done so. Again, given the season, it just seemed like a timely book to open.
I was pulled up short by yesterday's reflection by Bl. Titus Brandsma. Reflecting on the holy family's flight into Egypt, he talks about Mary's obedience. Two small things stopped me in my tracks, one right after the other. The first was the line "Jesus was her strength." When I think of the flight into Egypt, I picture so many ancient icons and old paintings of the family on the move, young Jesus cradled protectively in his mother's arms. I think of them fleeing to keep him safe. But how often have I paused to consider that it is Jesus who gives Mary -- and Joseph -- the strength to do what needs to be done? That as the Son of God, even as a little child in need of their shelter and protection, he is still the sustaining love and strength of their world -- and of the *whole* world?
While still pondering that, I ran smack into this line:
"In our bitter hours let us recall the flight of Jesus into Egypt. Let us picture Mary and Joseph who suffer because they were specially beloved of Jesus."
Whoa. And wow. Again, how often do I stop to consider suffering -- not as consequence, not as just-part-of-this-sad-and-suffering-world, not as something to be borne or something to pray my way out of, not even (on my better days) as something I know the Lord can use to shape and reshape me -- but as part of my life *because* I am beloved of Jesus? What does this mean when I stop to consider my own small sufferings, or when I ponder the far more significant sufferings of brothers and sisters in Jesus around the world?
Still pondering this. Still chewing.
And thankful for Karen's prayer at the end of the reflection, which reads: "Help me, Jesus, to remember that I can unite all my suffering to your suffering, thus giving my pain meaning. You renew my hope in my most difficult hours."