Good News All the Way
A blog by Rich Harter
Director of Evangelization
Archdiocese of Milwaukee
When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2: 21-40)
We all know well the experience of the rise and fall. We can see it coming from a mile away. Someone says something to us that initially sounds like really good news. Our spirits rise. But shortly after they start speaking, we detect that the news is about to go south in a big way. We know that the “but” is about to be interjected and our spirits begin to fall.
The boss congratulates you on your promotion, but then states that the new position necessitates a move somewhere undesirable. The new driver calls to say she or he is safe, but then describes how the accident has reshaped the car. Regarding that long anticipated date, the person says that they really like you, but something unexpected has come up. First comes the rise and then comes the fall.
Mary knows this experience all too well. The news about Jesus starts out in a very positive direction. God has fulfilled the promise of a son. Even His name, Jesus (meaning “Yahweh Saves”), is good news. He is consecrated to the Lord. The righteous Simeon proclaims Jesus as the Messiah, a light for the Gentiles and glory for the people Israel. The rising of this good news finds Mary amazed and blessed.
But then the tide turns and the rise takes a very steep fall. Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce her heart because Jesus is destined to be a stumbling block as a sign of contradiction for many. His life and teachings will become a crucible of decision. Some will rise to the occasion with faithful following, but many others will fall, revealing hearts of stone against his ways.
Mary is presented with the difficult truth of discipleship, a truth that applies to all of us. Following Jesus means walking the same path he does. There will be lots of good news along the way, but there also will be moments of great difficulty. All disciples are destined for the rise and fall.
May we grow and become strong, be filled with wisdom, and find the favor of God upon us!