Dear Mother Mary: Part Two
A prayer by Father Stanley Plutz SVD
Father Plutz continues his conversation with Mary, reflecting upon the birth and childhood of Jesus.
Birth of Jesus
Mary, you had just settled into your new home and were happy with Joseph. You were sewing baby clothes for your child, and Joseph was making a crib for the arrival of the infant, soon to be born, when the decree of Cesar Augustus came to Nazareth for the census.
Joseph had to report in Bethlehem. You, Mary, had to make a decision as to whether or not you would accompany Joseph to Bethlehem. You could have stayed in Nazareth; you were not obliged to go to Bethlehem to register since were not from Bethlehem.
You were likewise with child, a situation which would complicate the trip and your stay there. But enlightened by the Holy Spirit and to comply with the prophecy as to where the savior would be born, you decided to accompany Joseph and thus fulfill the plan of God that the promised messiah would be born in Bethlehem, the town of King David.
Once in Bethlehem, however, Joseph could not find accommodations. As Scripture says, "There was no room in the inn." Neither did any of Joseph’s relatives have any room since the census had brought many of the relatives to Bethlehem. You and Joseph had to settle for a cave in the field belonging to Joseph, a cave used for sheltering the sheep in stormy weather.
Joseph tidied up the cave as best as he could and prepared a place with clean straw on which you could sit. For light, Joseph had a lantern. At about midnight, you gave birth to Jesus without the normal birth pangs.
Joseph had hot water ready to bathe the child. After bathing him and wrapping him in cloths, you placed him in the manger padded with clean straw. Mary, with Joseph, you knelt in adoration before the newborn king of the Jews, the long expected messiah, a baby. Outside all was quiet and peaceful.
The Visit of Shepherds
Shepherds came to adore the child. They brought a lamb as a gift. You marveled at all that was happening. You listened as the shepherds told you and Joseph of the vision of angels and their song: "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to people of goodwill."
They said that an angel told them that the savior had been born and that they would find the child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. So they came. Your spirits, Mary, were lifted up after the trials of the trip and Joseph seeking in vain for a place to stay and having to settle in a cave for shelter.
Circumcision and Naming
Mary, your anxiety was relieved too when after some days Joseph found a house in town to serve as a better place for you and the infant to stay. He also found some work in town so as to be able to support the three of you.
Some wives of the shepherds and a few shepherds came on the eighth day after the child’s birth for the circumcision and naming of the child. You and Joseph rejoiced that the child at his circumcision became a member of the Jewish race, the chosen people.
The two of you had no problem in naming the child, for God through Archangel Gabriel had given him his name, which was "Jesus," meaning redeemer for he was to save the people from their sins.
Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
Forty days after the birth of Jesus, you and Joseph took the infant to the Temple in Jerusalem to present him to God his Father as was prescribed in the Law of Moses. What was your reaction when Simeon praised your child as the glory of his people and a light to the Gentiles and as a sign that would be contradicted?
Your heart must have leaped for joy when he said that Jesus would be the light and the glory, but then it must have sunk with sorrow when he foretold that your child would be a sign of contradiction, which meant that some persons would reject Jesus. This rejection would cause great sorrow, which would pierce your heart like a sword.
Back in Bethlehem, you—mother and child—grew ever closer in love. Each time you nursed, bathed and dressed him, the bond between mother and child drew more intimate. You talked to Jesus. The sound of your voice was music to his ears. You would contemplate Jesus as he slept. The hearts of mother and child beat in unison. Your two hearts picked up vibes from one another. What the son felt, his mother felt.
The Visit of the Wise Men
The unexpected visit of the Wise Men caused you to wonder and ponder, for God involved even foreign dignitaries in the birth of your son. You realized more clearly that Jesus was born for the good of the people of all nations.
Flight into Egypt
Herod, jealous of the newborn king, wanted to get rid of him. Mary, you had enjoyed the visit of the Wise Men, but when Joseph informed you that these royal visitors had been warned not to return to Herod, you became apprehensive.
The murderous stories of Herod had reached your ears. When Joseph received the warning from Archangel Gabriel that Herod was out to kill Jesus, he received instructions from the angel that you as a family should get out of his reach. You cooperated with Joseph in quickly getting ready to flee.
With your child in danger, you refused no sacrifice to save him. Packing a few necessities, you and Joseph hurried to set out for Egypt, a refuge for Jews in trouble with authorities.
You and Joseph took the shortest route though the desert while avoiding the more frequented places. In the sandy waste, hunger and thirst plagued you. You sacrificed to provide for the child. You suffered from extreme heat during the day and cold during the night. Dangers from robbers and bandits you feared.
After several days, you reached the first Jewish settlement in Egypt. There the gifts of the Wise Men came in handy. Joseph sold them because cash was needed so that he could purchase water and food, even shelter.
To safeguard the life of the child, the three of you moved on to the next settlement. There Joseph, skilled carpenter that he was, found work. With Jesus and Joseph, you, the Holy Family, made a temporary home for you. Eventually, news from Bethlehem reached you that Herod had slaughtered all the baby boys who were two years old and younger. You thanked God for His protection and for the safety of Jesus.
Life in Nazareth
Back in Nazareth, family life went on peacefully. Life there was a routine of prayer and work for you and Joseph and learning for Jesus. With joy, you observed your son as he grew. Jesus was a bright boy and learned easily.
He was a pious boy who loved God with his whole heart, soul, mind and strength. And God the Father loved him. People of Nazareth loved him.
Mary, you taught him prayers and related Bible stories to him. You cooked for Jesus and Joseph and kept the home clean and in order. You kept a flowering plant near the window, which gave beauty to the room. You thanked God for both Jesus and Joseph.
When your household chores were done, you sat outside in the shade of the wall as you faced the carpenter’s bench and sewed while Joseph worked on making a table for a home or a yoke for an ox.
Jesus played. As a family, the three of you prayed together, took your meals together and recreated together. Together, you attended the synagogue service on the Sabbath, listened to the word of God, which was read and explained. And you sang psalms and prayed.
At mealtime, you talked about local news and what you heard in the homily. Together, the three of you took walks in the evening while enjoying the refreshing cool breeze and admiring the beautiful flowers that grew there, for some poets call Nazareth the city of flowers.
You loved each other and found joy in each other’s company. When Jesus was old enough—the age of five—he went to the synagogue school with other boys. He respected the rabbi who taught them. As his mother, you delighted in his progress in learning Holy Scripture.
Loss and Finding of Jesus in the Temple
All went on peacefully until Jesus reached the age of 12. As a family, you attended weddings and funerals in Nazareth and nearby villages. You went each year to Jerusalem with a group of people from Nazareth for the Passover feast.
That was the highlight of the year. Mary, you journeyed with the women and Joseph with the men. Jesus went with the older children. On the way back from Jerusalem to Nazareth, though, something exceptional happened that year when Jesus was 12 years old.
When the group stopped for the night, you rejoined Joseph. But where was Jesus? "Have you seen Jesus," you inquired of others in the group.
You and Joseph went around and first inquired of the older children, then of relatives and friends in the group. Since he was not among them, you concluded that either something happened to him along the way or he had stayed back in Jerusalem.
You and Joseph decided to return to Jerusalem immediately. In sorrow and anxiety, you hurriedly retraced your steps. You looked for him along the way. Upon arrival back in Jerusalem, you stayed in the marketplace until the first rays of dawn appeared and you could continue your search.
Never before had the three of you been separated overnight. For you and Joseph, being without Jesus was a hell. After inquiring in vain of the people where you had stayed and in several other places where you had been, you and Joseph went on the third day to pray in the Temple.
There, you discovered Jesus in the synagogue school sitting among the teachers of Jewish Law. How relieved and happy you were! You stood in the back of the classroom, observed and listened with your eyes fixed on Jesus, who seemed quite at home among those learned men.
Jesus answered their questions intelligently and also asked intelligent questions about the suffering servant of the Lord as described by Isaiah, the prophet. Having found Jesus, heaven was restored for you and Joseph.
During recess, Jesus came over to you and greeted you. But why did he stay behind without telling you? You, as his mother, had to inquire. You did not understand his answer, which was this: "Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house about my Father’s business?"
You began to ponder his answer in your heart. Was he going to stay in Jerusalem and study under the learned rabbis?
But Jesus went back to Nazareth with you and Joseph where family life continued as it had been before the incident. As a family, you had light table conversation; yet you also had some sharing of ideas about topics of the Scriptures and about current events.
Mitzvah of Jesus
When Jesus reached the age of 13, he took the mitzvah examination and became a full-fledged Jew, an adult Jew. He wore the cape with its tassels, which you had sewn for him.
On that day, you and Joseph gave a modest party for Jesus to celebrate his mitzvah. A few of the neighbors, especially the cousins in Nazareth, participated in the festivities. Mary, you took special joy in this particular event in the life of your Jesus.
You enjoyed seeing Jesus and Joseph working together as you sat in the shade of your home and sewed. Jesus, as the years passed, was becoming a master carpenter under the direction and supervision of Joseph.
As a family, you continued making your yearly pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus seemed to feel at home in the Temple as he prayed in that sacred edifice dedicated to God for worship.
Death of Joseph
Years passed by with their ups and downs. Family life, though, was peaceful and joyous. Then Joseph fell sick with a severe cold and cough. He grew weaker day by day until finally he could not continue to work anymore. Jesus took over the work; he filled orders for yokes of oxen, furniture for homes, and other jobs. Then your faithful spouse and the unique father of Jesus died in your arms.
You had been Joseph’s great consolation as he suffered and then breathed his last. After his death, there began to be a great vacuum in the lives of you and Jesus. You consoled one another and went on with life as you knew that Joseph would like you to do.
Continue to Part Three