I have often wondered where the thorns are for the roses in our lives. For some who are looking for meaning there is an expectation that meaning and destiny needs to be forged into something that is only sweet. One might say “God forbid” it would be bittersweet.
“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” (Luke 2:33-35).
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him— It is an important starting point in being a disciples of Jesus, which is what Joseph and Mary would amount to, in being amazed. I am not talking about goosebumps. They come and go and if we rely on those for our turning points in the Divine we will be putting God into a performance position. God is not our clown but where his thinking is above our thinking it will inherently blow our minds. It is those key moments where we see God somewhere that reminds us that he is everywhere.
and Simeon blessed them—- If there could be any last anesthetic for the cross in being a disciple of Jesus it is that God intends to bless you especially in the cross. He wants to spiritually bless the world and will preface words and deeds with that bias. “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). For Mary, this could be a moment of comfort for the word about to come that would predict how she would lose her son.
Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel—- This is notable when we consider that Simeon has now directed his comments to only Mary the mother who would likely be the only one of those two parents alive when Jesus would come into his ministry. Mary is a humble young woman in a backwater town but of great significance in the eyes of God. Being full of grace as we can see in the original Greek as a past and completing act. She stands as an icon of God flipping over the paradigms that the carnal mind would be predisposed to.
and to be a sign that will be contradicted— Jesus would be intertwined with the message of the cross. This is why people that look deeply enough of the cross in the gospel get what Dr. Peter Kreeft calls “Jesus Shock”. St. Paul elaborates on this concept.
“but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).
It is fitting that Mary get this message. She had been told “The Lord is with you” and “Blessed are you among women” which historically were military conquest phrases. In Jesus the universal message of the Cross through the Church would rock the world.
and you yourself a sword will pierce—- Here is where the bittersweet comes in. Luke previously wrote about what is apparently a sweet old man who holds and blesses sweet baby Jesus who would grow up to be a sweet blessing for the world. Those perceptions hold true but not by themselves. The Good news has to have the hard news on its coattails.
For some who have seen the Passion of the Christ they come away that it could also be of Mary’s passion in seeing her son die on the cross. Her hope was in God but her heart was broken that her son would suffer. But for the good of the world would she still cooperate with that.
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed— This is important because Jesus in the gospel brings in many turning points who encounter the message and what it calls for. This “sign” would change everything in conversion because the word of God exposes those things that are and are not of God and necessitates our own turning points. A full understanding of God redeeming humanity in the incarnation brings to light the dignity that humanity is supposed to walk in. This is where the bitter is comforted with the sweet in the good news of Jesus Christ.