Today’s Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is a celebration of “Light;” “Jesus the Light of the world” who has come to dispel its darkness of sin. In the Mosaic law the parents of the first born child, after 40 days of the birth, are to go to the Temple of Jerusalem to offer their son to the Lord and for the mother to go through a ritual purification (cf Exodus 13:1-2.11-16; Leviticus 12:1-8). In today’s Gospel account, we see how Mary and Joseph were obediently fulfilling this Mosaic Law, by offering a pair of turtle doves and two young pigeons in the Temple.
At a deeper level of this Presentation account, we find that it is God Himself who is presenting His Only-begotten Son in the Temple for all peoples, through the words of the elderly Prophet Simeon who proclaimed Jesus as "salvation for all the nations . . . the Light to enlighten the Gentiles . . . the Glory of Israel . . . and the sign for the fall and the rising of many in Israel.” (cf Luke 2:29-35).
This “celebration of Light” was first celebrated in the Eastern Church and later in the Western Church, and is called “Candlemas.” And this is the significance of us bringing candles to Church today to be specially blessed, so that when we light them in our homes, we are reminded of how Jesus, the Light of Christ has come to fill our homes and the world with His Truth and Presence.
In these accounts Simeon also prophesised that “a sword will pierce Mary’s soul.” Blessed John Paul II tells us that these words of Prophet Simeon “seems like a second Annunciation to Mary.” Mary as she was conceived by the Holy Spirit need not go through the ritual purification that was expected of all Jewish women after their birth. Yet, Mary chose to go through the purification. In doing so, she was renewing her total offering of herself to God, so that God’s Plan can be accomplished.
Today, we are also each called, like Mary to renew our offering to God so that we can each be Christ’s Light in our world of darkness where sin and suffering is so prevalent. Even as we feel drawn by this invitation of God, we may each be saying to ourselves, “our spirit is willing but, our flesh is weak” . . . and the brightness of Christ’s Light in us . . . never seem to be bright enough . . . and we end up feeling disappointed with ourselves for disappointing God.
There is a story of a teacher who noticed that one of her colleague, instead of going straight home at the end of the day, would take a footpath into the forest nearby. One day, being curious, she followed her to see where she was going. Her colleague walked to a quiet open space in the forest, sat down, shut her eyes and began to compose herself to pray.
The following day, the teacher said to her colleague, “I must confess that I was curious about where and why you went to the forest each day after school. The colleague, Jane, said, “I like to spend some time in quite to communicate with God.”
“Is it necessary to go all the way into the forest for that?” asked the teacher.
“Well,” Jane said, “I feel close to God there.”
“Come on,” reasoned the teacher, “God can be found everywhere. Besides, isn’t God the same everywhere?”
“Yes,” Jane replied, “God is the same everywhere, but I am not”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, there are no secrets between the great saints of the Church and ourselves. In fact, many of the saints were greater sinners than us, before they became close and intimate with God. This big difference between them and us, often begins with small differences, as between Jane and her colleague. Jane was able to work as hard as her colleague, but was also able to find her strength and meaning in her daily life in God through her silent contemplation.
Thus, this real difference between Jane and her colleague is not so much that Jane had some quiet time to herself, but that Jane made conscious efforts and gave herself time and space to be connected with God. While Jane’s colleague reasoned rightly that God is found everywhere, Jane had the wisdom to know that unless our hearts are settled within, our minds will continue to be cluttered by the world outside us and our hearts will never sense the promptings of the Holy Spirit within us.
Mary’s greatest strength to live the Father Will for her throughout her life, regardless of the great anxieties and threats on her life that she had to go through, was through her silent pondering of the mystery of God in her life. When the Angel Gabriel announced that God had chosen her to be the Mother of the Messiah, she pondered on the mystery and found strength to accept God’s Truth (Lk 1:29). When the shepherds and the Three Wise men came to visit her new born child, she pondered and found strength to accept God’s Truth (Lk 2:19). In today’s Gospel, when Prophet Simeon and Prophetess Ana spoke about what the child Jesus is going to be, Mary pondered and found strength to accept God’s Truth. When at the age of twelve, when Jesus got lost and left behind in the synagogue to preach, Mary again pondered what her young child said and found strength to accept God’s Truth. And years, later when Mary found herself at the foot of the Cross of her Son, with John the apostle, Mary again pondered on the Mystery and found strength, in spite of her sorrows, to accept God’s Truth.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, if we truly wish to be Christ’s light in today’s world of darkness of sin and suffering, then we like Mary, prophet Simeon and Prophetess Ana, all the saints, and like Jane in our story, we each have to set aside time, find and create sacred spaces to ponder on God’s Truth and Mystery in our lives.
There are no secrets of how to grow in the sanctity that God Will. Our Parish main church is open throughout the day if we wish to come to spend some quiet time of contemplation with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. We have two Adoration rooms on our parish compound: one above the Sacred Heart Hall canteen and another at the Kingsmead Hall retreat centre. But, even if all these places seem too “troublesome” for us to visit as we are so busy each day, then why not create a sacred and quiet corner or altar in your room and home where you can then spend some quiet time each day to speak and listen to the Lord?
I like to end with a poem that is self-explanatory.
To be there before You,
Lord, that’s all.
To shut the eyes of my body
to shut the eyes of my soul
and to be still and silent;
to expose myself to You
who are there, exposed to me.
To be there before You,
the Eternal Presence.
I am willing to feel nothing, Lord,
to see nothing, to hear nothing.
Empty of all ideas, of all images,
in the darkness.
Here simply – to meet You
in the silence of faith,
- before You, Lord.
by Michel Quoist
My brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, Jesus the True Light in our world of darkness of sin and suffering, do we want to be Christ’s light? If we do, then we need to begin to be more composed and silent each day . . . we need to ponder on our life’s mystery and within that find God’s strength to accept His Will.
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
visitors since 8 Feb 2014