I woke this morning thinking of Joseph and Mary's arrival in Bethlehem.
I tried to imagine the Blessed Mother's thoughts as she rode into the town on the donkey's broad little back. Did she ache from the journey, heavy as she was with the weight of the coming Messiah? Did she, in the way that many soon-to-be mothers do, know the birth was less than 24 hours away, and did she keep her concerns in her heart, as we are taught she kept other, more important things?
"Hail Mary, thou who art full of grace-the Lord is with you!" What that dear young girl was glad to endure in obedience to His will! How many times in the last two thousand years have Christians considered her situation? The nuns glossed over it frankly, but I know that Mary would have gone through no little trouble when she was found to be pregnant before the official wedding to Joseph.
'Things' have only changed recently-unmarried girls were, two thousand years ago, a very big deal. Especially to the religious people of her community. It is a wonder she was not stoned to death immediately after being found out. Surely her survival was due only to God's care of her during those rough few months!
One would have only had to be paying the slightest attention to hear the part in the story that Joseph was not impressed with the impending birth, and sought to 'put Mary aside' to avoid marrying someone he knew certainly couldn't be carrying his child. Until the angel came to him in a dream and put his mind at ease. Yes, most folks know that part of the story...
Do they know that soon after the Annunciation, Mary set off on a trip to visit her aunt, Elizabeth? Elizabeth had begun to show the pregnancy she was carrying-an unexpected and joyous miracle to her and her husband as they'd given up hope after so many years of childlessness.
Elizabeth's un-born child moved vigorously in her womb at the entrance of Mary, prompting Elizabeth to cry out, "Holy Mary, mother of the Christ! Pray for our souls, now and at the hour of our death!" That yet to be born son? John the Baptizer.
The Pax Romana made it safe for our young lady to travel by caravan to her elderly aunt. The Romans! Franco's Spain sometimes reminded me of the Pax Romana. The streets were safe for women in 'ancient' Rome, and Franco's Madrid! Also, the trains ran on time. But the cost...
Mary gave, I think, very little thought to her personal situation, and upon hearing her aunt was in the last months of pregnancy, went to her at once to be a help.
Wow! When one stops to consider it all, that Mary was one brave kid! Trust me, 'cause I was there, the Roman Empire was not a terribly warm place towards Jews. Their situation could turn in a half a heartbeat. At best they were tolerated. At worst...
And then, after a hurried wedding, off go the newly weds to take part in the census. Great, let's throw a young, first-time to be pregnant, Jewish girl on the back of a donkey, and go to Bethlehem. Even with the Pax Roman, the trip couldn't have been Mary's or Joseph's idea of a great way to spend their first months together. One needs to consider his position at this point.
Joseph was the Scion of the dispossessed House of David-not, I promise-a politically correct House to be the Scion of at that time. Herod wanted every last one of the family line wiped out to cement his familiy's political (and thus financial) future. The only thing keeping the Ben-David line alive was their continued promise to stay out of trouble. Apparently Herod was afraid to act too much against them...But just let them step out of line!
Which now might give my gentle reader an even better understanding of Herod's willingness to murder thousands of Jewish children after the Three Wise Men left his palace to follow the Star.
Herod's thinking has never been hard to imagine-"That upstart! How dare he try to foist a 7 month's babe on the people as King of Israel..."
Yeah, I think Joseph ben David probably had some 'issues' as he trudged through the desert towards Bethlehem...
On so, sometime on the day Jesus' mother was going to go into labour with him, the husband and wife arrived in that little town of Bethlehem.