Forty days after Christmas, we celebrate the Lord who enters the Temple and comes to encounter his people. In the Christian East, this feast is called the “Feast of Encounter”: it is the encounter between God, who became a child to bring newness to our world, and an expectant humanity, represented by the elderly man and woman in the Temple.
In the Temple, there is also an encounter between two couples: the young Mary and Joseph, and the elderly Simeon and Anna. The old receive from the young, while the young draw upon the old. In the Temple, Mary and Joseph find the roots of their people. This is important because God’s promise does not come to fulfillment merely in individuals, once for all, but within a community and throughout history. There too, Mary and Joseph find the roots of their faith, for faith is not something learned from a book, but the art of living with God learned from the experience of those who have gone before us. The two young people, in meeting the two older people, thus find themselves. And the two older people, nearing the end of their days, receive Jesus, the meaning of their lives. This event fulfills the prophecy of Joel: “Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (2:28). In this encounter, the young see their mission and the elderly realize their dreams. All because, at the center of the encounter, is Jesus.
There’s something wonderful about candlelight, isn’t there? It’s mysterious, comforting, joyful, simple, and relaxing. For us Christians, candlelight speaks to us of Jesus himself- he who is the light from light, the light of the world, the light that shall not be overcome by darkness.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, traditionally known as “Candlesmas,” because the liturgy begins with our bringing candles into the midst of the church.
We do this in memory of what we heard in today’s gospel: How when Mary and Joseph brought their child into the great Jerusalem Temple, Simeon, a faithful man filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed Jesus to be the “light of the nations.”
This occasion of Jesus’ coming to the Temple is symbolic of Jesus coming to us, his people, because Scripture speaks of us as living stones of a living temple, of which Jesus himself is the capstone. We began to be a living temple on the day of our baptism. Baptism began our Christian journey with Jesus. Journey which is beautiful and rejoicing and sometimes challenging and difficult.
Through the Holy Spirit, Simeon and Anna recognized Jesus coming to them as a baby of a big promise. Simeon had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would see Christ the Lord, the Messiah, before he died. The holy man immediately recognized the infant Jesus as the promised Savior, a “light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” Anna also recognized Jesus as the fulfillment of the promise of redemption and spoke about him to all. Through the Holy Spirit, we recognize Jesus coming to us today in so many ways: in his word proclaimed in Holy Scriptures, in our sufferings and our joys, in the faces of the poor and vulnerable, in the faces of our Christian brothers and sisters, in the midst of this liturgical assembly, in the person of the priest standing at the altar, and supremely in his Body and Blood given to us in the Eucharist, the one pure sacrifice foretold in the first reading, from Malachi.
When Jesus came to Simeon at the Temple, Simeon rejoiced and burst into song. We rejoice today that Jesus comes to us, we who are the temple, and that we have a loving savior who is so close, so intimate, and so near.
Have you ever thought about the things that we all do every day? I’m not talking about things that you do once in awhile, or once a month, or even once a week. I’m talking every, single day. Maybe you read the newspaper every day. Maybe you make your bed every day. Maybe you use your keys to lock or unlock something, every day. Maybe you eat breakfast every day. Maybe you exercise every day. Maybe you watch television every day. A lot of people do. That lists of things that each one of us does every day is probably longer than we’d first think. And that list of things that ALL of us do every day, is probably much shorter than we think. Most all of us sleep some every day, but we know that on any given day there are people who aren’t sleeping for one reason or another. Most of us eat every day, and yet, we know there are people who routinely go more than a day without eating. Probably more likely, we all drink something every day. To not do so would make you dehydrated. Most all of us take a shower every day. And hopefully, all of us brush our teeth every day.
Today we hear the story of Simeon and Anna. And the Gospel tells us that both Simeon and Anna went to the Temple every day, because both of them believed that one day, they would see the Messiah there. They went every day! As we all know we have an obligation to come to church every Sunday and some of us do very faithfully and some of us don’t.
The Gospel says, in a nice way, that Simeon and Anna were both older. So this is something that Simeon and Anna had done for a long time. And of course, as we just heard, they are both rewarded for their Faith and their perseverance, by the fact that they do get to see Jesus on the day that He is presented to God in the Temple. We believe that we will be rewarded to see the Lord here during every Mass we attend and in eternity when we will live with Him forever.
God fulfills His promises to Simeon and Anna. All those days, all those trips, all that time they spent at the Temple, they get to see the Messiah that will save them and us. It must have been quite a day. Simeon even says, “Lord, now I can go in peace, my eyes have seen the salvation.”
This Feast Day and this story has got to make all of us think, how much is God a part of our lives every single day? We don’t all have to come to the Temple every day, like Simeon and Anna did. And yet shouldn’t there be some acknowledgment of God every day in our lives? God has also make promises to us, and we have made promises to Him. How can we remember those promises if we go on day after day without even thinking about God? This is why we’ve got to find some time for God every day in our lives. God wants us in communion with Him all the time. What if Simeon and Anna decided NOT to go to the Temple that day when Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus to the Temple? They would have missed out! Are we missing out on a lot of great things, all because we’re NOT there for God?
Sometimes we really do need to show up. Sometimes our presence can make all the difference in the world. Sometimes our prayer life and our relationship with God CAN’T wait, and CAN’T be put on the back burner. Sometimes God wants us right now! We’ve got to make God more and more a part of our daily lives. What do we have to do to make that happen?
You know, not brushing your teeth every day, not taking a shower every day, not eating right every day, not exercising every day, not getting enough sleep every day, all of these things can get us into trouble one way or another. So too, not letting God into your life every day can cost you. We can miss out on so much! Don’t let that happen. Let God fulfill His promises to you every day!