Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

As I get older, I realize that numbers become relative. “A few years back” can mean 30 years ago, and something that happened 30 years ago can seem like yesterday, while things that happen yesterday are forgotten immediately. Be that as it may, a few years ago, say 30 to 35, one of our neighbors had a rotary cuff operation and at that time if you had such an operation, you kept your arm elevated with what seemed like a very uncomfortable sling of some kind.

I saw this man and his wife in the guest house after Mass one day and asked him how he was doing after the operation and how his arm was. He sort of shrugged and said it was coming along. At this his wife chimed in and told me more about his arm and the operation and what he can and cannot do and how long it would take to heal, etc. As I thought about this later, I was fascinated by the different answers – they were so typical of how men and women process things. Women have this maternal instinct to care and have the words to express it. Men sort of grunt and move on.            

In today’s Gospel we see a little bit of this common behavior. Jesus loses himself on purpose and when found his mother says, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety?” Joseph said nothing. Mary spoke for him. When Jesus answered them, we are told they did not understand his answer. Normally parents would expect a clear explanation and even an apology. But Jesus seemed to add to their confusion by saying he had another Father while Joseph is standing right there. “Did you not know I must be in my father’s house?” We are told Mary kept this whole incident with its mysterious explanation in her heart.               

Mary’s heart where she kept all the mysteries of her life with Jesus is called Immaculate. I understand this to mean it is clear, unencumbered by a lot of contradictions and misunderstandings. When Mary did not understand something, she did not throw up her arms in frustration as we might, no, she pondered them in her heart and lived the paradox. Mary understood what she could not understand. She treasured things beyond understanding. When we do this in imitation of Mary, mysteries slowly reveal themselves to us and this is the gift of wisdom.