Fr. Martin shared this reflection in his Parish Update of March 25: On Friday, March 19, we observed the feast of St. Joseph, when an angel informs Joseph that his betrothed will have a son. On Thursday we observe the feast of the Annunciation, when an angel tells Mary she is with child. What do stories of the beginning of Jesus’ life have to do with Lent? How do they inform our understanding of Jesus’ last days? What do Joseph and Mary have to teach us that applies to our lives in this week at the end of March?
I often think of Joseph as the person for whom they crafted the saying: Life is what happens instead of what we plan. He was going to marry Mary. Change of plans. He had to travel to Bethlehem. Change of plans. He needed a hotel room. Change of plans. He had to flee Bethlehem. Change of plans. Again and again, Joseph said yes, even though it meant shame in his community, snickering and gossip, even though it meant taking his family into exile, eluding terrors of a tyrant, even though it meant giving up his plans. It was not the path of least resistance. No one would have blamed him if he had dismissed Mary quietly and gone back to his table-saw.
When I think of Mary, I wonder if she had a choice. I wonder if the angel asked other young girls before the angel got to Mary’s house. Mary said yes, even though it may have scandalized her family and friends, even though Simeon warned that a sword would go through her heart. It was not the path of least resistance. No one would have blamed her if she had told the angel “Thanks but no thanks.” . . .
What do Mary and Joseph have for us in the closing days of Lent? They give us a hint of what is coming in the story of Jesus. They let us know that saying yes to God is not the easy path. As Jesus told his disciples: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34). The story of Jesus, from birth to death reflects the cost of discipleship. The story of the Bible, from Genesis to the book of Revelation, reflects the cost of faithfulness.
Have you had any experiences that reflect this dynamic? Has your faith journey been relatively cost-free? Has it cost a lot? What do you think Jesus meant when he told followers to take up their cross? What would that mean in your life this week?
Holy Week offers an annual opportunity to see the way of the cross as the way of life. It’s an opportunity that came with Jesus’ birth and continued until those hours when he stretched out arms of love on the hard wood of the cross to draw us all into his saving embrace. Ask God this week in preparation for these holy days to show you how best to travel that way.