Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
Here again is a mystery so great I don't know how to get inside it or what to make of it with my rational intellect. I can only look at it. Did Jesus understand what was being done to him? Or did Jesus, being fully human, have only an infant's understanding as the knife cut him in that most intimate way? Beats me. All I know is that, in the pain of circumcision, Y'shua enters into the covenant of his fathers and takes his place as one of the children of Israel. It's a thing done to and for him, as it's done to and for all the sons of Israel. It is, for Jews, a glad thing. And it's also a painful thing, reminding us (not the child, who will not remember it) of the cost of discipleship and the need for circumcision of the heart.
That's a striking thing, since this child, above all, needs no circumcision of heart or anything else. But in a haunting foreshadow, he enters into and bears the pain, not for his sake, but for ours. God the Infant sheds his first blood for our salvation: a down payment on a great gift he will deliver in full on Calvary. And as he does so, the prophets Simeon and Anna foretell strange things to his mother. Are they warnings or consolations? Or both? He will be the fall and rise of many in Israel. Light of Revelation to the Gentiles. Glory of Israel. And a sword will pierce her heart, too. She, like he, will have to "increase in wisdom" (Luke 2:52) to be able to bear the great sorrow they are tasting today. Like her Son, she doesn't fully understand. But she is, like her Son, still saying "Yes" to God. And it's that Yes, more than understanding, that God desires most from us.