As you may know, last weekend, I was on the march for life. A phrase that we constantly used throughout this trip was. “what do we want? A culture of life. How do we get it? Prayer and sacrifice.” In many ways, this phrase was lived out during our trip. For me, one of the biggest sacrifices was sleep — one of the movies we watch nicely summed it up. You may know the song you have a friend in me and in that song, it says. “When you miles and miles from your nice warm bed.” That hit close to home because I was miles and miles from my nice warm bed. Especially our first and last nights, when I was in a limited recline bus seat trying to get sleep. Even in DC, when we could lay flat, we normally came back late at night and had to wake up early in the morning, getting less sleep than I normally get. In sum, this trip was a trip of sacrifice and some suffering. However, we wanted everyone to know that through our sacrifice, through our prayer and offering up that sacrifice, we were bringing about the culture of life and seeking to overcome the many ways human dignity is attacked in our culture.
Today we celebrate the feast of the presentation of the Lord. Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the temple, and Simeon responds amazingly. A lot is going on in this story that we may not realize. However, I would like us to focus on what Simeon says to Mary about her son. “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.” We typically think about Jesus going through suffering from his passion and death. He did indeed face suffering on the cross, and he did it for us. However, Mary, too, as prophesied by Simeon, also faces suffering in her life. Mary wouldn’t be pierced by an actual sword but seeing her son go through his passion and death on the cross was like a sword piercing her heart. Those who are mothers here may be able to relate to what Mary is going through. It is difficult and painful to see your child suffer, no matter what it may be. It’s hard to imagine the pain Mary had to endure to see her only son go through his passion and death on the cross.
Something you may have heard me preach before is that when we suffer we should go to Jesus because he knows what it is like to suffer. St. Paul speaks to this reality in our second reading. “Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” Jesus can be with us when we suffer when we are purified and tested in this life. What I would like to suggest too is that Mary can be with us in our suffering as well, and she like her son, can help us who are being tested. I know many of you here are in the habit of praying a rosary or even multiple rosaries daily. Something new you may want to try is to offer the rosary up for the suffering that you are going through, or a family member is going through. Mary can be there in that suffering. She knows what it means to suffer, and even more, she knows what it means to see a loved one suffer, which too brings suffering.
Even if we are not suffering now, we should still grow close to our lady and our lord on the cross. Our first reading speaks to us about the coming of the Lord into the temple. He suggests to us that when the Lord comes, he will be like the refining fire. The prophet Malachi tells us who will endure the day of his coming? Jesus wants to come into our lives and part of that coming is purifying in us what is not of God. Part of that will involve pain and suffering. I know for myself there are some material things that I need to purify myself from, that keep me from my relationship with the Lord. To let go of those things, to sacrifice those things is not easy and will bring some suffering into my life. I know as well the consequence of the sin I commit brings about some suffering too. The Lord promises us joy and fulfillment but sometimes we are called to endure some suffering to reach that joy and fulfillment.
The March for Life trip involved prayer and sacrifice and some suffering as well. However, I remember when I got back home, I said to myself that was one of the best experiences I’ve had on a trip like this, and I hope to go again next year! The same is true in our lives of faith. We will have to face suffering and purification. However, our Lord and Our Lady are with us as we are being tested, and what comes out of that purification and testing is joy and fulfillment in God. The Lord wants to enter into our temples, our lives and through it, we will be purified of what is not his, but ultimately find fulfillment and joy, not only in this life but in eternal life as well.