For Mary and Peter, life changed over a sword and a few words. The flash of Simeon’s sword opened Mary’s eyes and turned her expectations and participations inside out. The express words of Jesus to Peter stopped him dead in his tracks about how the Messiah would usher in the kingdom. We might say it this way: Lent backed up into the very fabric of the lives of both Mary and Peter and led them forward to a day that made no sense at the time.
Our question: Does the specter of Good Friday accompany our every step or do we push it off until Good Friday? I suggest for your consideration this thought: The Cross guides the life of the Christian and Christian life is not Christian if it is not shaped by the Cross. Mary and Peter struggled with the ever-looming presence of the Cross, and perhaps we do too.
Mary learned when she crossed the threshold of the Temple from an old man with the name of Simeon (she eventually had a boy named Simeon) that her son would cause the rise and falling of many — and she must have wondered what that would mean and how it would happen and which side would she end up on — and then she heard it: the flash of Simeon’s sword (Luke 2:34-35).
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
That sword would come to mean the Cross of Jesus; she would be there; she would see him crucified; she would know the pain of the crucified one; and that cross would also transform her own spirituality.
But that transformation took time for Mary. Like Peter, she would fight Jesus.
Peter once came to the brilliant, stunning, and courageous confession that he was convinced Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Messiah. Here it is:
“31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life* will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
Peter, too, struggled with the Cross.
Lent is the time when we are to learn to embrace the Cross, not just as a Good Friday saving instrument, but as the paradigm for our life — at which we find forgiveness and out of which we learn to live.