It’s only every several years that the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord falls on a Sunday, so it may be more familiar to those who attend daily mass. But it’s an important enough feast that when it does fall on a Sunday of Ordinary Time, it replaces that Sunday’s usual prayers and readings. That is the case this year.
The reading from Luke’s gospel we hear this weekend is an account of how Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem in accordance with Jewish law, and of how two holy people who had been waiting faithfully for the Messiah (Simeon and Anna) reacted when they encountered Jesus. I’m struck by several things in the story. One is that Jesus was a Jew, as were his entire family and ancestry. He was brought up from the beginning to be observant of God’s law, to worship in the temple or synagogue, to observe the prescribed rituals, and to live justly and righteously, awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise. Others much wiser than I have pondered at what point Jesus became aware that he was the Christ, the one that had been promised. The Scriptures tell us that he grew in grace, wisdom and favor.
The faith of Simeon and Anna is also significant. In particular, it seems that Simeon never doubted that God would fulfill what had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit – that he would not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. I love the way Simeon addresses God upon meeting Jesus after having waited for so long: “Now, Master you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation”. And Anna embodies our parish mission statement: “And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were waiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” She encountered Jesus. She became a disciple.
The humility of Mary and Joseph is also compelling. Here are two people who have experienced a lot of supernatural events: Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary that she would be the Mother of the Savior, Joseph being counseled in a dream to go ahead and take Mary into his home even though she was with child, the journey to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus in the stable, the angels sending shepherds to worship the child, the star which guided the Magi with their gifts to the child, the escape from Herod’s slaughter of the innocent – again prompted by Joseph’s dream. One might think they would become used to strange
and wonderful events. Yet they were “amazed” at what Simeon said about the child.
In the letter to the Hebrews (our second reading) we hear a little more about the meaning of the gift of Jesus Christ: “…He had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”
Brothers and sisters, that is us.
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The holiest week of the year. Take part in one or all of these liturgies and devotions as we travel to the hope of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.
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