On May 1, 2016, my son stopped breathing.
He had climbed onto a small wooden chair in the kitchen, trying to see what his sisters were doing. The stool slipped, F fell.
On the way down, he smacked the back of his head on the rung of a barstool.
The shock knocked the wind out of him. For 15 terrifying seconds, I begged my son to breathe.
He did. But then the vomiting started.
I sat on the floor, cradling the phone at my ear and F in my arms. I thought about Mary as the sirens grew closer to the house:
Nuzzling her infant son
Dusting his scraped, bruised knees
Fighting her panic in a crowded temple
Cradling her dead son in her arms
In that moment, I understood surrender. My child needed me, and all I could do was hold him and wait.
A Sacrifice of Praise
True sacrifice transforms. It empties our souls, leaving nothing but God’s grace within.
This mystery first unfolds in Scripture, beginning with the Old Testament.
When an Old Testament figure performs a burnt offering, an animal is slaughtered and its body is burned. Fire transforms the victim and leaves in its place a new creation – ash.
But as with all of salvation history, God reorders things. We see it first in the story of Abraham and Isaac, in which both father and son are victim. The two are transformed through the fire of surrender to God’s will. Abraham and Isaac empty themselves, praising God in the midst of the most horrific challenge they have ever faced.
This typology is repeated in the New Testament. Once again, God makes all things new – this time through Mary’s fiat:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Mary knew. She may not have had full knowledge of what would happen to her son, but she knew a sword would pierce her heart. But like Abraham and Isaac she surrenders herself completely, a burnt offering for the salvation of mankind.
And then her son, her little boy, offered his very life for our sins.
Our direction is clear. It’s a sacrifice of praise written on our hearts, even in the small things. As we prepare for Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, let us leave nothing but room in our souls for his unending glory.
Let us be transformed.
Let God order our days and nights.
Let us become his new creation, one which seeks only to do his will.