Holding Our Whole Story

December 30, 2018   Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

December 30, 2018
Luke 3:41-52
Fr. George Smiga

The important line in today’s gospel takes place towards the end where it says that Jesus’ mother “kept all of these things in her heart.” The things that the gospel has just reported to us comprise a very difficult and painful episode in the life of The Holy Family. For three days Joseph and Mary could not find their son. When they finally find him in the temple Mary says, “Son, your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Great anxiety to be sure! We can only imagine what was going through Joseph’ and Mary’s minds as they looked for Jesus: Had he been kidnapped? Was he hurt—or worse? Finding him was certainly a relief, but the whole experience was a disaster, a frightening and painful ordeal.

So, why does the text tell us that Mary kept this painful episode in her heart? Would it not make more sense for Mary to simply forget that it happened and move on. This gospel says, no. Using the example of Mary, this gospel tells us that there is a value in remembering all the events of our lives, even the painful ones. Why is this the case? Because whatever happens to us becomes part of our story, and it is only when we can embrace our whole story that we understand who we are and how God is loving us.

All of us have parts of our lives that we wish could be different, that we wish could be changed. But when things happen to us, they become part of us, a part of our story. Then we must try to learn how to keep them in our heart. Alcoholics know this truth well. There are many parts of their lives that they wish could be different: people that they hurt or disappointed, harm that they caused to themselves and others. But recovering alcoholics understand that the way forward is to claim the past mistakes as they happened, because it is only by doing so that an alcoholic can remain sober and live life again.

Anyone who deals with an aging parent or spouse in the last part of life knows what a struggle that can be: worry, impatience, anger, dismay over the suffering of the person we love. When death comes, of course, it makes sense to focus on the good times, when health was robust and life was joyous. But this gospel tells us there is an advantage in remembering those dark days of struggle, because the presence and commitment that are displayed there have their own important things to say about love.

We all like to remember the good times. Today’s gospel asks us to remember the difficult days as well. Using the example of Mary, who kept all of the experiences of her life in her heart, this gospel calls us to see that it is better to accept our mistakes and limitations than to deny them. It is wise to own our painful days rather than forget them, because every day, good or bad, easy or difficult, is a part of our story. And it is only when we embrace our whole story that we realize who we are and that we come to see the unique way that God is loving us.

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