It's been said that God created man because he loved the stories.
In fact, he was so caught up in the story of mankind that he himself entered into human history in just the same way we all do. God became a child, entrusting himself to the care of a mother and father, in a little family that faced all the hardships and joys of any human family, thus showing us how we are to live, love, suffer and die.
With silent strength, Joseph accepted the task of watching over Jesus and Mary. Mary, chosen to bear the son of God, accepted her mysterious fate with grace, from the exultant moment the child was conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, until the moment a sword of sorrow pierced her heart as she watched her beloved son die on the cross.
Confronted with mysterious events they could not understand, Mary and Joseph trusted in God's plan, obedient to his will.
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Like Mary, a mother's greatest joys and her deepest sorrows are intimately bound up with her children, with whom she shares an eternal bond of love. Like Joseph, a father's greatest call is to be protector of his family; his deepest desire, to see his children "grow in wisdom and stature."
This natural inclination toward parenthood and the desire for our children's welfare is truly written in our hearts and in our DNA. It also is true that when a parent experiences the loss of a child, sorrow pierces the heart like a sword, whether that loss occurs before birth because of a pregnancy loss such as miscarriage or abortion; or later, with the death of an older child.
In the case of the unborn child, we sometimes fail to fully acknowledge the impact of the loss. Grief is buried; unexpressed and unresolved, it can negatively affect our lives and relationships. The traumatic loss of a child deeply affects the very essence of God's intention for men and women, almost invariably leaving a profound wound that is difficult to heal - but nothing is impossible with God.
If we allow Jesus, who lived in that little family and at the same time was one with the father in heaven, into whatever hidden grief we hold in our hearts, he can transform our sorrow into joy.
He knows what it means to laugh and to weep, to rejoice and to mourn, to be betrayed and abandoned, to lose a friend to death, to feel compassion for a woman mourning the loss of her only son - and to suffer and die. The wounds in his hands, his feet and his heart are evidence of his humanity, and those wounds remain visible even in his glorified divinity. His scars, like our own, provide strength.
Only Jesus, fully divine and fully human, can heal our deepest sorrows.
As Bishop Fulton Sheen once wrote, "Scarred men come for healing only to scarred Hands! Only a Risen Jesus with scars can understand our hearts."
-- Nancy Murray holds a B.A. in Christian tradition from St. Joseph's College of Maine and Catholic Catechist Certification in the Yakima Diocese. She attends Christ the King Parish in Richland, and blogs at www.catholic ethics.blogspot.com. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.