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Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

SMM India
Published by in Feast Day Homiles · 1 February 2021
Tags: F.H.1

Presentation of the Lord - Day of Consecrated life (Feb 2, 2021)
Ist Rea   - Mal 3:1-4.   
IInd Rea - Heb 2:14-18.
Gospel -  Lk 2:22-40.
The crèche in St. Peter’s Square in Rome is left in place until today and then removed. This reminds us that the Christmas stories about Jesus in Luke come to an end today forty days after Christmas with the celebration of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:22-40).
The presentation of Jesus in the temple served two purposes; the first is the redemption of the first-born and the second is the purification of Mary. The first-born belonged to the Lord according to the Book of Exodus 13:1-2 but Numbers 18:15-16 tells us the first-born could be redeemed or bought back by paying five shekels. The purification of the mother in Jewish Law (Lev 12) was purification from ritual uncleanness after childbirth. Of course Our Lady did not need this purification because she was a virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus but underwent it to fulfill the Law. The purification was normally performed in the local synagogue but Mary and Joseph decided it should take place in the temple. If the family could afford they would offer a one year old lamb, but if not they would offer two young pigeons.
This is Jesus’ first visit of many to the temple. It is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi in the first reading, “suddenly there will come to the temple, the Lord whom you seek…” (Mal 3:1) The text in Malachi goes on to say that when the Lord enters the temple he will purify and refine the Levites so that they will offer a pure sacrifice to the Lord and then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord (Mal 3:3-4). Malachi is saying that in the future when the Lord enters his temple the sacrifice of the Levites, the sacrifice of the Old Testament priests, will be purified so that a pure sacrifice will be offered that can please God. So Malachi, even if unknown to himself, foresees Christ and his priests of the New Covenant first ordained during the Last Supper. The second reading from Hebrews confirms that Jesus is the high priest of the New Covenant (Heb 2:17). Jesus, as high priest of the New Covenant, offered himself on the altar of Calvary, the only pure priestly sacrifice that could please God.
Earlier in Malachi, before our reading today, Malachi offered another fascinating prophecy, that everywhere from east to west a sacrifice and pure offering would be offered to God (Mal 1:11). The early Christians, the Didache (14:1-3) tells us, saw Malachi’s prophecy of a pure sacrifice and offering from east to west as a prophecy of the sacrifice of the Eucharist. That interpretation found its way into the Magisterium when the Council of Trent (Doctrine on the Sacrifice of the Mass) also interpreted Malachi as prophesying the Eucharist. So Malachi prophecies that the Lord will enter his temple, there will be a renewed priesthood, and there will be a pure sacrifice - the Eucharist - offered worldwide pleasing to God. When Jesus was presented in the temple everything foreseen in Malachi was already beginning to unfold and would be fully unfolded when Jesus would die on the cross and his priests of the New Covenant would continue to make that sacrifice present in the pure sacrifice of the Eucharist offered from east to west.
Therefore Jesus is indeed the light to enlighten the Gentiles and the glory of Israel as Simeon prophesied (Luke 2:32). Simeon was awaiting the consolation of Israel. The Holy Spirit enlightened him to know that that consolation was now beginning to occur with the birth of Jesus. The prophetess Anna was awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem and she was also enlightened to know that this redemption was now beginning to occur in Jesus and she spoke about Jesus to all awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:38). Simeon awaiting the consolation of Israel and Anna awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem see their hopes fulfilled in Jesus.
Further events involving Jesus in the temple show Jesus as the consolation of Israel and redemption of Jerusalem.
  • When Jesus cleansed the temple he predicted that the temple of his body would be raised up after three days (John 2:19), so in the New Covenant Jesus has replaced the temple.
  • The feast of Tabernacles included a ritual with water in the temple each morning and Jesus declared during that feast, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.” (John 7:37) So Jesus has replaced the feast of Tabernacles in the temple.
  • The feast of Tabernacles also included an evening ritual involving the lighting of the Menorah candelabra in the temple forecourt. That prompted Jesus to say, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Jesus has replaced the lighting of the Menorah. Jesus is the light to enlighten the Gentiles and the glory of Israel.
When Jesus was presented in the temple everything foreseen in Malachi was already beginning to unfold. Jesus replaced the temple and the feasts celebrated there. Jesus’ death on the cross would be the pure priestly sacrifice that would please God and when the priests of the New Covenant would make that sacrifice present during the sacrifice of the Mass it would be the pure sacrifice from east to west that would please God.
Day of Consecrated life
“My eyes have seen your salvation” (Lk 2:30).  These are the words of Simeon, whom the Gospel presents as a simple man: “righteous and devout”, says the text (v. 25).  But among all at the temple that day, he alone saw Jesus as the Saviour.  What did he see?  A child: a small, vulnerable, simple child.  But in him he saw salvation, for the Holy Spirit allowed him to recognize in that tender newborn “the Lord’s Christ” (v. 26).  Taking him in his arms, he sensed by faith that in him God was bringing his promises to fulfillment.  And that he, Simeon, could now go in peace: he had seen the grace that was worth more than life (cf. Ps 63:4), and there was nothing further to wait for.
We  too, dear consecrated brothers and sisters, we are simple men and women who caught sight of the treasure worth more than any worldly good.  And so we left behind precious things, such as possessions, such as making a family for ourselves.  Why did we do this?  Because we fell in love with Jesus, we saw everything in him, and enraptured by his gaze, we left the rest behind.  Religious life is this vision.  It means seeing what really matters in life.  It means welcoming the Lord’s gift with open arms, as Simeon did.  This is what the eyes of consecrated men and women behold: the grace of God poured into their hands.  The consecrated person is one who every day looks at himself or herself and says: “Everything is gift, all is grace”.  Dear brothers and sisters, we did not deserve religious life; it is a gift of love that we have received.
My eyes have seen your salvation. These are the words we repeat each evening at Night Prayer.  With them, we bring our day to an end, saying: “Lord, my salvation comes from you, my hands are not empty, but are full of your grace”.  Knowing how to see grace is the starting point.  Looking back, rereading one’s own history and seeing there God’s faithful gift: not only in life’s grand moments, but also in our fragility and weakness, in our insignificance.  The tempter, the devil focuses on our “poverty”, our empty hands: “In all these years we haven’t got any better, we  haven’t achieved what we could have, they haven’t let us do what we were meant to do, we haven’t always been faithful, we are not capable…”and so on.  Each of us knows this story and these words very well.  We see this is true in part, and so we go back to thoughts and feelings that disorient us.  Thus we risk losing our bearings, the gratuitous love of God.  For God loves us always, and gives himself to us, even in our poverty.  Saint Jerome offered much to the Lord and the Lord asked for more.  He said to the Lord: “But Lord, I have given you everything, everything, what else is lacking?” “Your sins, your poverty, offer me your poverty”.  When we keep our gaze fixed on him, we open ourselves to his forgiveness that renews us, and we are reassured by his faithfulness.  We can ask ourselves today: “To whom do I turn my gaze: to the Lord, or to myself?”  Whoever experiences God’s grace above all else can discover the antidote to distrust and to looking at things in a worldly way.
There is a temptation that looms over religious life: seeing things in a worldly way.  This entails no longer seeing God’s grace as the driving force in life, then going off in search of something to substitute for it: a bit of fame, a consoling affection, finally getting to do what I want.  But when a consecrated life no longer revolves around God’s grace, it turns in upon itself.  It loses its passion, it grows slack, becomes stagnant.  And we know what happens then: we start to demand our own space, our own rights, we let ourselves get dragged into gossip and slander, we take offence at every small thing that does not go our way, and we pour forth litanies of lamentation – lamentation, “Father Lamentation”, “Sister Lamentation” – about our brothers, our sisters, our communities, the Church, society.  We no longer see the Lord in everything, but only the dynamics of the world, and our hearts grow numb.  Then we become creatures of habit, pragmatic, while inside us sadness and distrust grow, that turn into resignation.  This is what a worldly gaze leads to. The Great Saint Teresa of Kolkata  once said to the sisters: “woe to the sister who repeats these words, ‘they have treated me unjustly’, woe to her!”
To have the right kind of view on life, we ask to be able to perceive God’s grace for us, like Simeon.  The Gospel says three times that he was intimately familiar with the Holy Spirit, who was upon him, inspired him, roused him (cf. v. 25-27).   He was intimately familiar with the Holy Spirit, with the love of God.  If consecrated life remains steadfast in love for the Lord, it perceives beauty.  It sees that poverty is not some colossal effort, but rather a higher freedom that God gives to us and others as real wealth.  It sees that chastity is not austere sterility, but the way to love without possessing.  It sees that obedience is not a discipline, but is victory over our own chaos, in the way of Jesus.  
My eyes have seen your salvation. Simeon sees Jesus as small, humble, the one who has come to serve, not to be served, and defines himself as servant.  Indeed he says: “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace” (v. 29).  Those who see things as Jesus does, learn how to live in order to serve.  They do not wait for others to take the initiative, but themselves go out in search of their neighbor, as did Simeon who sought out Jesus in the temple.  Where is one’s neighbor to be found in the consecrated life?  This is the question: Where is one’s neighbor to be found?  First of all in one’s own community.  The grace must be sought to know how to seek out Jesus in the brothers and sisters we have been given.  And that is precisely where we can begin to put charity into practice: in the place where we live, by welcoming brothers and sisters in our poverty, as Simeon welcomed Jesus meek and poor.  Today, so many see in other people only hindrances and complications.  We need to have a gaze that seeks out our neighbor that brings those who are far-off closer.  Men and women religious, who live to imitate Jesus, are called to bring their own gaze into the world, a gaze of compassion, a gaze that goes in search of those far-off; a gaze that does not condemn, but encourages, frees, consoles; a gaze of compassion.  That repeated phrase in the Gospel, which, speaking about Jesus, says: “He had compassion”.  This is the stooping down of Jesus towards each one of us.
My eyes have seen your salvation. The eyes of Simeon saw salvation because they were expecting it (cf. v. 25).  They were eyes that were waiting, full of hope.  They were looking for the light and then saw the light of the nations (cf. v. 32).  They were aged eyes, but burning with hope.  The gaze of consecrated men and women can only be one of hope.  Knowing how to hope.  Looking around, it is easy to lose hope: things that don’t work, the decline in vocations… There is always the temptation to have a worldly gaze, one devoid of hope.  But let us look to the Gospel and see Simeon and Anna: they were elderly, alone, yet they had not lost hope, because they remained in communion with the Lord.  Anna “did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (v. 37).  Here is the secret: never to alienate oneself from the Lord, who is the source of hope.  We become blind if we do not look to the Lord every day, if we do not adore him.  To adore the Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank God for the gift of the consecrated life and ask of him a new way of looking, that knows how to see grace, how to look for one’s neighbour, how to hope.  Then our eyes too will see salvation.
Fr. Michael Menezes, SMM
Nithyadhara Mathe Church,
Srinivasapura. Kolar Dt.
Karnataka. India

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