My Dear Friends,
There is another translation of the word treasure, which gives a very different picture. Mary stored all these things in her heart. I prefer treasure because it suggests that every experience of hers was given value, not just kept hold of. At this time of year it is maybe important for us to recognise the difference between storing things up, or actually treasuring them because they have made us what we are today.
I had a grandmother who stored things up. I don’t mean the hankies and nighties we bought her lovingly and which she never wanted to spoil by using, but the incidents of our childhood were stored and shared. She stored the best and the worst: the day I broke my arm and the day my sister won at swimming. There wasn’t an episode or mistake she ever forgot. “You had the whitest shirt at the scout show … before you fell off the stage.”
The story of Jesus being taken to the Temple and remaining there when his parents were searching for him must be one we remember from our earliest years. The idea of Jesus getting lost in such a place as Jerusalem would have been little different from a twelve year old going missing today. It is the worst nightmare of a parent. The fact that we are so attuned to protecting our children doesn’t mean that Mary and Joseph weren’t frantic with worry for three days.
They must have felt like shaking him when they found him, but as soon as they had found him, they realised that he had already begun to find himself and his identity. It was part of his adventure of growing away from them, in love. Every newborn baby brought to Saint John’s grows up. As time goes on children become less ours and more their own. Birth is simply the beginning of that separation. Mary and Joseph gave Jesus life and they could not take it back. It was a painful incident but it served to bring them closer together.
This is what I mean by Mary treasuring these things. It’s easy to recall pleasant experiences, but painful ones are a different matter. We are tempted to suppress painful memories, but they can still influence us and poison us. We need to recall the painful times too, but it’s how we recall them that matters. They can provide the raw material from which we derive understanding, compassion and insight. The loss of Jesus in Jerusalem must have been a terrible memory for Mary, yet she stored it in her heart, and learnt from it.
As we journey through the autumn we can treasure what’s happened to us, even the appalling, sickening, frightening things – and hold them, as we know God holds them.
Mary and Joseph eventually found what they were searching for – in the Temple, the House of God. Many lost, homeless souls have come to the house of God or have wandered into it almost by accident and felt at home and at peace, and found themselves. This is exactly why it’s so important for us to meet and share these experiences.
May we use Saint John’s as a place in which we can reflect on all that happens to us. May we discover who we are – like Jesus. May we reflect on painful memories, but know that whatever the world may think of us we are still God’s precious sons and daughters, and that new life is within our grasp.
Your Friend and Vicar,