Ever have someone say something to you that goes right through you? You wonder, because this so often happens with someone you wouldn’t expect to get you, or someone who doesn’t necessarily know you well, “How does that person know so much about me?” Is it possible I am so transparent, or have I met a straight-up sage at an opportune moment?
When new parents Mary and Joseph take their baby boy to the Temple, they meet Simeon. He is so much in line with God that the Spirit actually rests on him; the day of coming over is long in the past. He claims he is now seeing what he has waited for all his life and thanks God for it.
His father and mother were amazed by what was said about him. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too.” (Luke 2:33-35, CEB)
Note that he offers that aside just to Mary. Here she comes with a baby, and who knows how much Joseph actually understands about what is going on with her, but he’s by her side, and Old Simeon claims to have seen his salvation. Can he see from their faces that Mary is the one who really knows what he means? The particular kind of sword he names both cuts and pierces. Not that there are *nice* swords. And even the best of us have thoughts we might not want revealed: fears, desires, antipathies.
Jesus was to be a “sign that generates opposition.” Simeon seems to be saying it has to come to that, that the work will not be done, cannot be done, without the disputes that reveal the truth, good and bad.
We’re living in a time of opposition, one I wish would pass away. We are seeing the inner thoughts of many on display, the kind of thoughts I hoped had passed into extinction; instead they are tweeted, shouted, painted on signs. It’s excruciating, and it’s real, and maybe it’s a sign that nothing can change until things get worse.
O God, help us. Help us to move to new understandings, to find a way to reach the angry and the hate-filled, to be faithful to what is right rather than letting evil prevail. Amen.
I’m reading and blogging about Luke for Lent. Want to read along? Full schedule can be found here.