Text: The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 2:22-40
There are so many popular celebrations of Christmas these days. We enjoy these wonderful times of gathering and refreshment -- there are gift exchanges, special dinners, traditions that rooted themselves in our consciousness -- but, these were not so from the beginning.
The times were tough for the Holy Family.
The Law of Moses was clear as to what had to be done with regard to the Torah, the Law of Moses. The Holy Family came to Jerusalem (The City of Peace) with the Prince of Peace (Jesus Christ) in order to do according to the Law.
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord")
Every male child was to be presented to the Lord. In retrospect, it is easy for us to see why this was so. This presentation was seen in the Old Testament as a foreshadowing of the Presentation that would be made for the great work of Christ in the world. In the truest sense, it was God's plan and purpose, and remains so, that every child be brought even today unto the Lord, for the dedication that was exhibited by Mary and Joseph, two very holy people.
Our God is the One Holy God, "set apart," "high and lifted up."
Yet, it is this "wholly other" One God that chose to come down and dwell in our midst. He allowed and allows us now to observe and behold his Glory, the Glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
So, Mary and Joseph in obeying the Torah, make sacrifice to the Lord.
24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."
But, here in Jerusalem, there was another man who lived a life of holy sacrifice, far and above the "hustle" of life in Jerusalem. People came and went at the place where he stood close to God, and there was something very special about this Family that day. The Lord made it known to Simeon.
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
How many of us are "doers of the Word of God," as was Simeon.
In the daily night office (the Liturgy of the Hours) we recite and pray this song of Simeon, because it reflects this devotion to the coming of Jesus and the work that was before him and our response to that "opus dei."
It is only when we are close to God that the Holy Spirit reveals what is the work of God for us.
We now stand outside the Temple to listen to Simeon's voice, as one also crying in the wilderness where there are many people who paid no attention to this Family. How much this is like our own societies. Little attention is paid to the most important things, and much attention to the least important. May we pay attention to JESUS and the words of Simeon, and the lives of Joseph and Mary.
27 And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law,
28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word;
30 for mine eyes have seen thy salvation
31 which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."
JESUS is the Light that shines into the darkness and overcomes the darkness in order that all flesh might see God -- Immanuel! The word, "revelation" means to "unveil" something previously hidden. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ that Simeon has in mind. God is doing these even today.
Simeon's name (Shimeon), means, "harkening." Or, "listening."
So, this name asks us the following questions--
Who will listen?
Who will come to him and follow him?
Who will with him become doers of the Word of God and work in cooperation with the grace of God?
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him;
It is the sign of holiness that Joseph and Mary would be so awe struck over what Simeon said of JESUS. These were unassuming people, holy people, who loved God with their whole hearts and minds and souls. They were completely devoted to God Alone. So, they were thrilled to find out new things as they walked in the light of God and became doers of the Word of God. May we be like Mary and Joseph in discovering all the good things that God has planned for us as we walk in the light of their Son, JESUS. They are our examples of Family.
So, Simeon declared a double blessing for "them," and then, "Mary."
Mary's role is unique.
34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against
35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."
This is an exceptional passage that goes to the very heart of Mary. It also brings to the forefront the fact that the name of JESUS will divide those who do not follow God from those that do hearken to the voice of the Lord and follow God. Here, to, we have the first glimpse of the ultimate reality that the world system will not follow God Alone and that we have a choice.
We are called to follow and serve God Alone as freed men and women. What will we do?
A woman answers this? Her name is "Anna," -- "Grace," the daughter of a name that comes from "face of God.," (Peniel, Phanuel)
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanu-el, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity,
37 and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
What holiness is seen in this woman of God.
Day and night -- fasting and vigils. What a woman of God!
We all know of women like this, like Anna the prophetess. Anna was a holy "preacher." I suggest that she may have been much like St. Catherine of Siena when she was younger and after her husband died.
38 And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all that were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
May we all become like Anna and be doers of the work of God in telling others of this hope that in us. WE are blessed to know the Way, the Truth and the Life. WE are blessed to be a Family of God, the Church with Peter's fold, built upon the Rock.
Let us proclaim JESUS where God has planted us.
39 And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.
40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Blessed be the Name of the Lord.