We all have heard about the road to Calvary. Of Jesus carrying his cross and heading towards death to bring us salvation. Of His suffering on our behalf.
But I think we seldom hear about the road to Bethlehem.
The distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem, depending on the route taken, is roughly 80 miles. A strong person can walk about 20 miles per day. Donkeys make the trek slower. So this trip could have taken 4 to 10 days. And Mary made this trip while she was pregnant-- Very pregnant.
She was probably a healthy teenager, with a full term pregnancy between 38 to 40 weeks
For those who have not experienced a full term pregnancy, believe me, it's hard.
By week 38 you are tired all the time. You have a baby inside that is getting ready to come out into the world.
The baby has turned, or is finishing turning upside down, and directing their head towards the birth canal.
You have to urinate a lot, and may have some constipation all because of the baby's position. There is also shortness of breath because of the pressure on your diaphragm from the baby. Your feet and hands may have some swelling, and the joints and tendons are loosening from hormones that help in the delivery of the baby. And these are just a few of the most common symptoms of late pregnancy.
So, imagine Mary taking this trip that could have taken anywhere between 4 -10 days, in her late pregnancy. As uncomfortable as she must have been, I am sure she didn’t complain to St. Joseph, so as not to worry him. And just smiled during their trek.
Imagine St. Joseph, worrying about Mary, knowing she is about to deliver her baby. She is taking this trip so late in her pregnancy, in order to obey the decree from Caesar Augustus. Smiling back at his wife he consoles her. He makes sure they get there safely. And silently he prays for her and her baby.
And he hears her labored breathing, something she can't help, and maybe he tells her: “Go ride the donkey, so you don’t have to get tired from walking”.
And Mary, with her dolcissima smile, abides and rides the donkey. She rides the donkey even though the bouncing will make her spine and hips hurt, and her heartburn worse.
And she goes through this in spite of carrying the King of the Universe inside of her.
And I think of how much she must have loved God to go through all of this.
And how much she loves all us for having gone through all of this.
Holidays can sometimes be very difficult for people. They can bring hardship, concern, and depression.
Many people are going through very hard times, in their health, economy, or lack of friends or relatives.
On these days, where anxiety runs high, don’t feel alone.
Look at Mary. She also suffered a lot before the birth of her Son.
Think of how you are not walking alone on the road to Bethlehem.
Silently walk with her, her pre-born baby. And let St. Joseph lead the way.
And Christmas will be here soon for us all.