Sunday, June 02, 2024

Holy family? A thought for Morning Prayer on the feast of the Visitation, 31st May 2024 at Southwark


They bring you joy

They bring you pain

And they very rarely turn out the way you expect.

I was young when I was first betrothed to Joseph...very young.....naive...hopeful....

He was kind, gentle...and we walked the hills around Nazareth imagining our future home..Naming in our dreams the children we might have together

That was before the angel came and the world changed forever.

Honestly I didn't know what to say, what to think, how to feel

Was this new beginning going to end all my hopes and dreams of a quiet family life?

I know I had a choice, but could I say no when God called, however strange the summons?

At first I hugged the news to myself, praying in the wakeful nights, pouring out to God all my amazement "how can this be...." my confusion "what will it mean?' fear..."how shall we live.".

But babies grow and the time came to talk to Joseph and to my parents. 

That was hard. So hard.

Always a quiet man, Joseph shut down completely.

"I see" he said, then walked away into the evening shadows.

Next day, though, he returned. He too had had a message from God. We would stay together. He would father my child. God's child. I think I fell in love with him properly that day....

But that still left the neighbours to contend with, so it was agreed I should go away to my cousin Elizabeth, a visit to buy some time.

When life is hard, family can be a rock,-  though sometimes they are first to pick up a rock to hurl at you.

Not this time though. The moment I crossed her threshold Elizabeth was all joy at my visit and at my news. With no prompting she affirmed my news

"How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"

She KNEW. Her unborn baby KNEW.

I wasn't going mad, as I had sometimes worried...I had heard an angel

We hugged, laughed, cried, praised God together. Mothers, babies and the Holy Spirit dancing for joy.

Joy was the keynote when my delivery day arrived too.Yes it was hard to be away from home, from my own mother, but Joseph was there, and the light and love that filled the strange birthplace was enough to confirm that God was deeply involved, committed, an ever present part of our little family.

After that came fear again,- the strange old man at the Temple who said wonderful things about my baby had harsh things to say to me, about future wounds to my heart and soul...the reports of soldiers coming for all baby boys and toddlers in Bethlehem.

Tragic. Chilling. Even though we were safe enough in Egypt.

And as Jesus grew up, I  could never quite relax into motherhood. He was all loving kindness of course, sensitive beyond his years, quick to help, to hug, to listen and love. Sometimes it seemed he was the parent, I the child.

He would tell me off if I tried to protect him, tried to fix things.

"Just trust" he would say. "My father's got this."

Strange, wonderful years though sometimes he shook our family to the core, wounding Joseph so deeply when he told those in the Temple "I must be about my father's business"

There were other children by then, boys and girls whom I love truly and deeply, but my bond with Jesus was different, so I felt torn in two when he left home.

I knew it was time.

He knew it was time

But all the same, I thought he would miss us, his family, would be as excited to see us as I was to catch even a glimpse of him in the crowds.

I never imagined he wouldn't spare us even a few minutes.

Would disown us so harshly.

It seems he has a new family now,-bigger, for sure...but can they love him as I do?

Do I still have a role to play, for my precious firstborn? I am still his mother.

And maybe for this wider family, those who do God's will I can be a mother too. 

After all, I have tried to do that every day...tried to trust that God's got this, even when it seemed most unlikely

Yes. Perhaps I can mother by example for them, . 

Mary, mother of God' family. Mary, mother  of God.

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