It was my friend Maria Scaperlanda who recommended San Alphonso retreat house to me. She also told me about a particular sculpture of Mary and Jesus that she loved and that I should be sure to see. I am glad she did; the sculpture completely changed how I heard something Jesus says in Luke’s gospel.
First, here is a picture of the sculpture:
I have no idea what the sculptor’s intent was, but as soon as I saw this, what I heard was Jesus saying to Mary in the temple, “don’t you know I must be about my father’s business.”
In the past, I always heard those words as an admonishment, almost harshly critical of Mary’s lack of understanding. The words were distancing.
But as I stood before the sculpture I heard the words very differently. I heard “don’t you know” the way I might say to Elena when she is hurt, “don’t you know how much I love you” – that is, knowing of course that she does. So what I heard Jesus saying to his mother was “(don’t) you know that I must be about my fathers business. That is exactly what you did when you said yes to my father’s plan. You risked problems with your family, the scorn of friends, even death to be about my father’s business. Surely you – more than anyone else – understand that I must do the same.” (And, although Joseph is not in the sculpture, I heard Jesus’ similar words to him.)
And far from distancing (and I observed that Jesus is not straining against Mary’s arm around him and that while one of his hands points off, the other reaches toward her) I found the words uniting: Jesus says I must be about my father’s business, as must you.
As must we all. As must we all.
I am structuring my retreat time using Louis Savary’s The New Spiritual Exercises in the Spirit of Teilhard de Chardin. My reflection in front of the sculpture is a perfect fit with what God has been doing with me through that vehicle.