Read and pray through John 2:1-11; Matthew 12:46-50; John 19:25-27
Introduction | We are walking together through the Church season of Lent. Lent, which means “springtime or renewal,” began to be observed by the Body of Christ sometime during the 4th century. The period of Lent spans forty days (not counting Sundays) modeled after Jesus’ time fasting in the wilderness before beginning his earthly ministry. Lent is a sacred time of remembrance, renewal, and spiritual preparation in our journey of faith with Jesus.
Over these next few weeks of Lent, we invite you to take up the practice of reading and reflecting on the women who first followed Jesus. We all know that the four gospels specifically emphasize the twelve disciples whom Jesus called to “Come and see.” But there are several women who also follow Jesus as he teaches, heals, offers miraculous signs, and purposefully makes his way towards first, offering himself on a Cross, but ultimately rising to a life beyond death.
Each week we are going to look more closely at one of these women so we can better appreciate what they each saw in Jesus and how they learned to follow his lead with their lives. Each Tuesday, I’ll provide an overview and some brief reflection on the life of each of these women. Each Thursday, one of the female members of our staff will offer their own personal reflections as to the life and witness of each of these faithful women. Each Saturday a Lectio Divina prayer exercise will be provided to reflect more deeply in the Spirit in terms of each week’s devotional theme and focus.
Reflection | After I became a mother, I started to realize that I went from being “Mary” to “Abigail’s Mom”, especially when she started school. When we are children we can often be referred to as “so-and-so’s son/daughter”, if we have siblings, we can be their “sister/brother” while growing up. The same goes for if we become parents, get married, or get a title within our degree or career, those “roles” can often define us rather than the very name we were given at birth. As I realized that I was now, “Abigail’s Mom”, while I am blessed to be her mom, it symbolized a new shift in my identity within this world. Something that I personally can try to define myself by, or even the world around me can identify me by. Although, there is not an issue in being my daughter’s mother, when I misplace my identity, exclusively, in being her mother, that is where we run into trouble.
You see my identity, your identity, lies with Christ. When we put our identity elsewhere, such as in our roles in this world, we can often lose sight of who we truly are, disciples of Jesus. The world begins to define us, rather than our faith in Christ. When I look at the three stories of Mary from today’s reading, I saw something interesting, Mary is referred to as “the mother of Jesus”, not by her name. I do not believe this is because of the same reason that I am referred to as “Abigail’s Mom” (as defined by my role), but something far more symbolic of her identity as a disciple of Jesus.
First, during that time societally, women were identified by their relationship to their husbands, not the sons. To me that speaks volumes to how Mary is important to the ministry of Jesus as to directing attention to that which is more important, His mission and His Glory. She could have easily been referred to as “Joseph the Carpenters wife”, but in John’s Gospel, I believe it is more important to see her in relationship to Jesus and his ministry.
Second, in the interaction between Mary and Jesus at the wedding at Cana, Mary in her faith, encourages Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation for the world, even though she does not know exactly how this will unfold. Not that she pushes Jesus, but in that moment, she demonstrates her complete faith in what he can and will do. Even though Jesus says, that his “hour has not come”, meaning the time for his death and resurrection, he does the miracle of changing the water into wine, and from that point forward his ministry begins and the signs pointing to who he is and what he has come to do continue. It says, “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11). When I see Mary referred to as “the Mother of Jesus”, I see her fully embracing her identity as a disciple of Jesus. Her belief is in her son and what he will do for all people from the very beginning, even before any of the miracles. Her faith in Jesus began even before she conceived him, and from the beginning and end of his ministry here on earth, she is present with him. As Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan put it, “But in the end, faith involves “staying with”, remaining with Jesus.” Mary stays the course with Jesus.
What does this mean for us? Do we see our identity resting in Jesus? Do we stay the course with Jesus even beyond the Lenten season?
Lent is a time for renewal and intentionality. During Lent, we often practice fasting, and by no means am I belittling it as a practice, but sometimes we get caught up in “doing” fasting without the intentionality of clearing away distraction and drawing closer to Jesus. Honestly, is giving up junk food or taking a break from social media, really bringing you closer to Jesus? We can give up so many things or take on so other things as a practice, but without intentionality, it will not open us to Christ and our continued renewal of our hearts toward him. Perhaps we should intentionally fast from our misplaced identities, the absorption we have with ourselves or others, and anything that hinders our relationship, and our very presence with Jesus. My encouragement during this Lent, this time of reflection, is that we strive for closeness to our Savior. That we truly seek to be in the presence of Jesus now, so that it continues to be part of our very identity every day.
To me, Mary gladly chose the identity of Jesus’ mother, not because it brought glory to her and her role in the story of scripture, but because she would continue to point to the glory and the power of Jesus and the redemption He would bring. Redemption is the power of the Cross, taking death and turning it to life. The roles we get to occupy here on earth are blessings, but they cannot bring us redemption. The people we love and care about are blessings, but they cannot bring us redemption. The things we own, the successes we achieve, the words people say about us are blessings, but they cannot bring us redemption. Only Jesus can bring us redemption- creating all things new in the life that was meant to be. Mary knew this and witnessed to this, because through her faith in what God could and would do, she knew that the only way forward, was with Jesus. She reminds us that we cannot rely on any other thing of this world but Jesus, because he is “the way and the truth and the life.”
Consider & Discuss | What roles, distractions, or habits are you allowing to have your exclusive attention? Can you see where your identity is often being misplaced? What ways can you redirect your identity back to who you are in Christ? What can you intentionally do this Lent to begin a renewal of what you may have forgotten about your identity in Christ?
Prayer Focus | Jesus, may this Lenten season be a fresh start to break down the barriers within my heart. I confess that I often forget that I am first and foremost your disciple, your child, your beloved. The world around me can distract me, and sometimes I willingly let it distract me from you. May I be intentional and draw nearer to you this Lent, putting aside myself. Thank you for your redemption, which can continuously renew us and reorient us back to you. Amen.
Lead on, Lord Jesus, lead on!