The Presentation of the Lord

02-02-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

This weekend we celebrate another and a different style Feast of the Epiphany, the appearance of the Lord in the heart warming Feast of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple. Again this revealing of the Lord is a sign of hope and light for all of us. In our Gospel, Mary shows what joy is after her struggle to keep hope and faith in God for so very long. For, previous to this event, she had various periods of fear and doubt and also anxiety and worry as we learn from the stories of the Annunciation, the Nativity and the Flight into Egypt which have been told to all of us. She proves to us by her life that if our lives are grounded in hope that God will act on our behalf, then there is nothing to fear and everything to celebrate. Life has meaning when we trust in the Lord despite the difficulties that surround us. Ultimately his grace will give us peace and joy.  

Our first reading, which is from the prophet Malachi, is selected by the Church because it is about another manifestation, another epiphany, of the Messiah, of the Lord. Note how this particular reading tells us about another of the Lord's "messengers" (whom we know to be John the Baptizer). This messenger who is John the Baptist is to prepare the way for the Lord who will be coming to "purify" God's people so that they might offer worthy sacrifice to God.  

In the second reading, which is from the Letter to the Hebrews, the author explains how the Lord "came" as one of us. Our responsorial psalm of this weekend refers to Jesus as "the King of Glory." Although we perceive this image of Jesus to be powerful, he still shares humanity with us by emptying himself for us and thus becoming our true, great high priest.  

The Gospel tells us the story of how the Holy Family clearly obeys the Mosaic law. As parents, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple, where Mary presents herself for legal purification. We learn that so much more is happening than a ceremony of ritual purification by the presence of the additional people Simeon and Anna. What is taking place is a new and true "epiphany," not of Mary, but of Jesus, who is the long-awaited and prophesied-about Messiah. This is the appearance of the one who will liberate Israel, and he himself become God's temple.  

All parents have hopes and dreams for their beautiful little infant. Imagine being with someone who can see into the future of your baby, as Simeon saw and told Mary. How do you think Mary's heart heard all this? Certainly her reaction is quite mixed.

When we stand back and think about all the people in Scripture, we can reasonably conclude that Mary is the ideal model of hope for us Christians. Mary, like so many of the Jews in the past, had long trusted that God would fulfill promises and act on their behalf. Mary, like the generations before her, hoped for the coming of the Messiah. We really do not know why the ominous darker part of Simeon's prophecy did not break Mary's heart. We surmise that it clearly was due to her faith and strong hope in God.  

We theorize that Mary recognized that the same great divine love that gave life and pursued her so passionately was also a love that would never leave her, no matter what. The example of Mary's hope teaches us to hope. We learn by her life that no matter how bright or bleak a situation may seem to us or others, God can and does call us to make a difference. We can place our hope on Mary's hope and believe as the angel Gabriel assured her, "Nothing will be impossible for God" (Luke 1:37).