The Gospel According to Luke (2:22-40)
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted. And you yourself a sword will pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Reflection: One of the best blessings of being a Deacon, for me, is being able to baptize babies and children. To be able to give that first sacrament and start children on their faith journey fills me with unimaginable joy. To also be a witness to the parents, grandparents and godparents as they pass down a part of themselves through this beautiful gift and tradition from God.
In today’s Gospel, we watch the scene where two generations meet; Mary and Joseph follow tradition by bringing Jesus to the temple. They are blessed and receive confirmation of their special son. Simeon, through patiently waiting with hope, is guided by the Spirit and is rewarded by an encounter with the infant Jesus.
The mixture of the old and the young: Mary and Joseph left the temple with a greater idea of what their son would be. He would be a light for the world, and glory for his people. The light would come from the darkness of death and the glory from the newness of risen life. With those words of hope for their child, and indeed future suffering, they went back home. Almost thirty years of the Lord’s life is described here in just a few words. Jesus, as God’s gift, was presented in the Temple. Mary and Joseph fulfilled the law and made the offering of the poor – two turtledoves.
Then the focus switched to two older people from different backgrounds but had their faith in common. Both uttered words of hope. Simeon saw Jesus as ‘a light of revelation to the Gentiles’. Anna spoke about the child ‘to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem’. Amid the joy there is a prediction of suffering for Mary, as a sword would pierce her soul. Jesus was presented in the Temple. Two older people model watching and waiting, recognizing, and giving thanks as Simeon “took him in his arms”. In the original biblical language this expression described what the priests of the Old Law did as they accepted the gifts offered by the faithful for use in the temple sacrifices. Then it was Anna’s turn. She praised God and spoke about the role the child would play in the redemption of us all. Simeon and Anna, because they were people of intense and ongoing prayer, always found themselves in the right place at the right time. Like them, each one of us, is called to cooperate in the divine plan of salvation. We are told that Joseph and Mary were amazed at what was being said about him.
Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. In the past, it was also known as the Purification of Our Lady. It was further referred to as Candlemas Day because Simeon saw in Jesus a great Light. Let us unite ourselves in spirit with Jesus, Mary and Joseph and like them, prepare ourselves for whatever the Lord plans for us.
Action of the Day: Today let our prayers draw strength from their example. Simeon received a gift and recognized it when others might not have done so. Let us ask, that, like Simeon and Anna that we may seek and recognize Jesus in surprising places and present him to the people of our time. Can we patiently wait like Simeon – trusting that we will receive, from the Lord, what we seek?