OT IV [A] (Feast of Presentation of the Lord) (Feb 2) 1-page summary for an 8 minutes homily)
Introduction: This feast commemorates how Jesus, as a baby, was presented to God in the Temple in Jerusalem. This presentation finds its complete and perfect fulfillment in the mystery of the passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord. The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child to God in the Temple and his buying back (redemption) from God. It is also known as the Feast of the Purification of Mary, and the Feast of Candlemas. It is also called the Feast of Encounter (Hypapánte in Greek) because the New Testament, represented by the baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna. Joseph offered two pigeons in the Temple as sacrifice for the purification of Mary after her childbirth and for the presentation and redemption ceremonies performed for baby Jesus.
Scripture lessons: In the first reading, taken from Malachi, the prophet speaks of the Lord suddenly coming to Jerusalem to purify the lax, lazy and indifferent priests of His Temple as silver is purified by fire. Simeon saw the Infant Jesus as the fulfillment of this passage. He saw Jesus as the Lord Who has come to the Temple, “destined to be the downfall and rise of many in Israel.” In the second reading, St. Paul proclaims Jesus as our Eternal High Priest of the New Covenant (Heb 2:17), Who offered himself on the altar of Calvary, the only pure priestly sacrifice that could please God. He replaces the former priesthood. The Gospel describes how Joseph, as the head of the Holy Family of Nazareth, presented Mary and the baby Jesus in the Temple of God for the mother’s purification and the Child’s “redemption.” It also describes the Holy Family’s encounter with the old prophet Simeon and the holy old widow Anna. In his prophecy, Simeon extols the divine blessings which the Messiah is bringing to Israel and to all men and predicts that Mary will play a crucial and sacrificial role in her Son’s redemptive work by sharing in her Son’s sufferings.
Life messages: 1) Every Holy Mass in which we participate is our presentation. Although we were officially presented to God on the day of our Baptism, we present ourselves and our dear ones on the altar before God our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. Hence, we need to live our daily lives with the awareness both that we are dedicated people, consecrated to God, and that we are obliged to lead holy lives.
2) We need the assistance of the Holy Spirit to recognize the presence of Jesus in ourselves and others: All those who, like Simeon and Anna, persevere in piety and in the service of God, no matter how insignificant their lives seem in men’s eyes, become instruments whom the Holy Spirit uses to make Christ known to others. In His plan of redemption, God uses these simple souls to do much good for all mankind. In other words, the Holy Spirit employs ordinary men and women with simple faith as His instruments to bear witness to Christ, his ideals and teachings just as he used Simeon and Anna. The Holy Spirit reveals the presence of the Lord to us when we are receptive and eager to receive Him. Hence, let us be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit within us to recognize the indwelling presence of the Lord with us and in others. (L/20)
OT IV (Feb 2) (Feast of Presentation of our Lord) Mal 3: 1-4; Heb 2: 14-18; Lk 2: 22-40
Homily starter anecdotes # 1: “Would you hold my baby for me, please?” Years ago, a young man was riding a bus from Chicago to Miami. He had a stop-over in Atlanta. While he was sitting at the lunch counter, a woman came out of the ladies’ restroom carrying a tiny baby. She walked up to this man and asked, “Would you hold my baby for me? I left my purse in the restroom.” He did. But as the woman neared the front door of the bus station, she darted out into the crowded street and was immediately lost in the crowd. This guy couldn’t believe his eyes. He rushed to the door to call the woman but couldn’t see her anywhere. Now what should he do? Put the baby down and run? When calmness finally settled in, he went to the Traveler’s Aid booth and together with the local police, they soon found the real mother. You see, the woman who’d left him holding the baby wasn’t the baby’s real mother. She’d taken the child. Maybe it was to satisfy some motherly urge to hold a child or something else. No one really knows. But we do know that this man breathed a sigh of relief when the real mother was found. After all, what was he going to do with a baby? In a way, each of us, is in the same sort of situation as this young man. Every Christmas God Himself walks up to us and asks, “Would you hold My Baby for Me, please?” and then thrusts the Christ Child into our arms. And we’re left with the question, “What are we going to do with this Baby?” But an even deeper question is just, “Who is this Baby?” If we look at Scripture, we find all kinds of titles and names for this Baby we hold in our arms: Emmanuel, “God-with-us;” Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Christ the King, Jesus. In today’s Gospel describing the presentation ceremony, Simeon asks Mary the question: “Can I hold your Baby for a few minutes, please?” (Rev. King Duncan).
# 2:“Four Chaplains Sunday.” February 3 is Four Chaplains Day in the USA. This day commemorates the events of February 3, 1943, when the troop ship USAT Dorchester sank. Dorchester left New York on January 23, 1943, carrying 4 chaplains and about 900 others as a part of convoy of three ships. It was torpedoed by German submarine U-223 off Newfoundland at 12:55 a.m. on Feb 3rd. When Dorchester began to sink, four chaplains of different religions, George L. Fox (Methodist), Alexander D. Goode (Jewish rabbi), Clark V. Poling (Baptist) and John P. Washington (Catholic) were helping to calm down the passengers and organized an orderly evacuation. The life vests were passed out to passengers, but the supply ran out before each man had one. (Of the 13 lifeboats, only two functioned). The four chaplains gave their own life vests to others and helped as many men as they could into the boats, then they linked their arms together, saying prayers and singing hymns including the Navy hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”, went down with the ship. Four chaplains were posthumously awarded by the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross on December 19, 1944. In 2006 chaplains were awarded by the Medal of Honor. The Four Chaplains’ Medal was introduced by Congress on July 14, 1960. These medals were presented posthumously to the next of kin of each of the four chaplains of Dorchester on January 18, 1961. Congress established February 3 as Four Chaplains Day in 1988. This day is observed with official proclamations and, sometimes, flags flying at half-mast. The four chaplains presented and offered themselves completely to God for the well being of others as baby Jesus was presented to God in the temple by Joseph and Mary and he offered himself on the cross later, for our salvation.(Adapted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Chaplains ).
3: The sword piercing Mary’s heart: There is a beautiful Holman Hunt picture in the Guggenheim Museum in New York City called “The Shadow of Death.” It is the only known work of classical art that shows Jesus laboring as an adult in the carpenter’s shop. Joseph is absent so we presume he has died. In this painting, a day of work has ended, and Jesus has just risen from his bench and stretches in relaxation. The shadow of his body and upraised arms falls on a rack of tools on the wall, and we see prefigured the “very dying form of one who suffered there for me.” But the most interesting thing about the painting is that in the background we see Mary kneeling before an open chest in which we see the gifts of the three wise men “the gold, frankincense and myrrh.” No doubt as the years went by, Mary watched her son grow to manhood. Now in Joseph’s absence, Jesus was supporting the family as a carpenter. Mary might have wondered if God had mocked her with a cruel joke that her Son was the One who would redeem his people. So again, and again she would go to the chest and gently touch the gifts, as if to convince herself that the promises were real. This might have been the only concrete contact she had with the golden hopes of thirty years ago. And on this day, as she caresses the golden crown and the casket of frankincense and the vase of myrrh, suddenly she sees on the back wall the shadow of the cross. From that day forth the shadow is ever before her. (Rev. Eric Ritz). That was the sword that would pierce Mary’s soul. Simeon knew what lay ahead.
# 4: “A new refrigerator with a 10-year warranty.” An elderly woman in frail health was speaking with her doctor and expressing her hope that she would have the strength to live just a few more months so that she could celebrate the birth of her first grandchild. Sure enough, the day came, and the woman was present and well enough to hold the little child in her arms. When the woman went back to her doctor, he suggested that it would be important to set a new goal so that she had something to look forward to, something to “keep her going”. “Well”, the woman pondered, “my son did just buy me a new refrigerator with a 10-year warranty.” Today in Luke’s Gospel we are introduced to a couple of characters who have been waiting for a long time for a promise to be fulfilled. When they see the Child, Anna and Simeon announce to everyone they see that He is the fulfillment of God’s promise to humanity.
Introduction: This feast commemorates the presentation of the Infant Jesus by Joseph and Mary to God in His Temple in Jerusalem. This is another ‘epiphany’ celebration insofar as the Christ Child is revealed as the Messiah through the canticle and words of Simeon and the testimony of Anna the prophetess. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and some Eastern Catholic Churches, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts, The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child to God in the Temple. Known as the Feast of the Purification of Mary and the Feast of Candlemas (because of the blessing and procession of candles on this day acknowledging Christ as the light of the nations), this day is also called the Feast of Encounter because on it the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna. Joseph offered two pigeons in the Temple as sacrifice for the purification of Mary after her childbirth and for the presentation and redemption ceremonies performed for the Baby Jesus. This feast originated in Jerusalem in the 4th century and spread in Rome by the middle of the 5th century under its Greek name, Hypapánte.
The first reading (Mal 3: 1-4) explained : : Malachi prophesies in the first reading that the Lord is going to appear suddenly in the Temple of Jerusalem to purify its priests and the people. The prophecy warns that nobody can endure the day of the messenger’s coming because he will be like a refining fire, purifying the sons of Levi. Led by the Spirit, Simeon saw the Infant Jesus as the fulfillment of this passage. Simeon, even if unknown to himself, foresaw Christ and His priests of the New Covenant who were ordained during the Last Supper. He saw Jesus as the Lord Who would come to the Temple, “destined to be the downfall and rise of many in Israel.” In today’s reading, Malachi prophesies that God will purify the lax, lazy and indifferent priests of His Temple as silver is purified by fire. At the time of Malachi (around 460-450 BC), the priests were offering blemished (blind, lame) sacrifices and giving bad example (1:6-2:4). The people were negligent in their support of the Temple (3:6-12). Israelite wives were being rejected by husbands who wished to marry foreign women (2:14-16). Social injustice was rampant (3:5), and the people doubted God’s love (1:2-5). Hence, Malachi reminds them that the Day of the Lord, a Day of Judgment, reward and retribution is coming. He describes the Divine intervention as a two-stage process. First God’s messenger will appear to prepare the way by purifying the clergy and refining the cult (v. 3). This purification will take place until they present offerings to the Lord in a spirit of justice and righteousness. Then, the Lord of Hosts will suddenly appear in the Temple (v. 1), to bring judgment and justice against unfaithful sinners (v. 5). The Psalm announces to Jerusalem that Jerusalem is about to receive a great visitor. The Psalmist identifies him as “The LORD of hosts … the king of glory.”
The second reading (Heb 2: 14-18) explained: The second reading proclaims Jesus as our Eternal High Priest of the New Covenant (Heb 2:17), Who offered Himself on the altar of Calvary, the only pure priestly sacrifice that could please God. The Didache or the first catechism of the early Church (14:1-3), saw Malachi’s prophecy of a pure sacrifice and offering made from east to west as a prophecy of the sacrifice of the Eucharist. Hence Malachi prophesies that the Lord will enter His Temple, there will be a renewed priesthood, and there will be a pure sacrifice offered worldwide and pleasing to God — the Eucharist. Jesus became like us in all things except sin in order that He might offer to the Father perfect praise and glory. Besides, since Jesus fully shared our experience, He is now a merciful and faithful High Priest on our behalf, “able to help those who are being tested.” Jesus replaces the former priesthood. In keeping with the theme of today’s feast, namely, the presentation of the first fruits, this excerpt from Hebrews emphasizes Jesus’ dual role, as first-fruits, par excellence, and as the faithful High priest Who presents the perfect gift of Himself to God for the expiation of human sin. By virtue of His Incarnation, Jesus became human in every way (vv. 17-18) except as regards sin. As representative of His brothers and sisters before God and as their Mediator, Christ perfected His service as both sacrifice and priest. By so doing, Christ was able to “rob the devil” of power (v. 14). As the first-fruits from the dead, as the conqueror of sin and death, Christ, in His person and through His mission, has set the course and cleared the way we are to follow; the decision to do so must be a daily and deliberate one. It takes faith to see God’s power at work in the death of Jesus. Simeon hinted at this when he told Mary that she herself would be pierced with a sword. Even knowing that her Son was the Savior of the world, it would be difficult for Mary to see him accomplish that salvation by being crucified.
Exegesis of today’s Gospel: The birth of Christ was revealed by three kinds of witnesses in three different ways — first, by the shepherds, after the angel’s announcement; second, by the Magi, who were guided by a star; third, by Simeon and Anna, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Today’s Gospel describes the Presentation of the Baby Jesus in the Temple. It was intended to ritually redeem Jesus who was the first born in the family and where Mary herself will have to be ritually purified. Mary and Joseph was a typical pious Jewish couple, who went to the Temple in obedience to do all that was required and expected of them by the Law.The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus is a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child in the Temple. It is known as the Hypapánte feast or Feast of the Purification of Mary (by the offering two pigeons in the Temple), the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (by prayers and a sacrifice offered in the Temple to redeem or buy the firstborn male child back from the Lord), the Feast of Candlemas (because of its ancient rite of blessing of the candles to be used in the church for the next year — a practice dating from the middle of the fifth century) and the Feast of Encounter (because the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna). Originally, there was no connection between today’s festival and the blessing of candles. In the ancient East, this celebration occurred on February 14, forty days after Epiphany. On February 15, pagans celebrated the festival of Lupercalia, a great “light” festival. Perhaps this is an instance of the Church’s “baptizing” a pagan custom. At the principal Mass, the celebrant blesses candles, and people take part in a candlelight procession. This should remind us that Jesus is our High Priest and the Light of the World.
Purification and redemption ceremonies: The Gospel describes how Joseph, as the head of the Holy Family of Nazareth, presented Mary and the baby Jesus in the Temple of God for the mother’s purification and the child’s “redemption.” According to Leviticus 12:2-8, a woman who bore a child was unclean for forty days following the birth of a son or eighty days following the birth of a daughter. Although Mary, the most holy of women, ever-Virgin, was exempt from these precepts of the Law, because of her miraculous conception, she chose to submit herself to the Law just like any other Jewish mother. Joseph and Mary showed their total submission to Law and obey the norms prescribed by the Old Testament. It was in obedience to this “law of Moses,” that the Virgin presented her babe unto the Lord, “in the east gate of the court called Nicanor’s Gate, where she herself would be sprinkled by the priest with the blood of her sacrifice” The custom was practiced probably for the physical and emotional re-integration of the new mother into the community. There was a religious reason as well. Exodus 13:2, 12-13 prescribes that every first-born male belongs to God and must be set apart for the Lord, that is, dedicated to the service of God. However, once divine worship was reserved to the tribe of Levi, first-born who did not belong to that tribe were not dedicated to God’s service, and to show that they continued to be God’s special property, a rite of redemption was performed. The Law also commanded that the Israelites should offer in sacrifice some lesser victim — for example, a lamb or, if they were poor, a pair of doves or two pigeons. The Book of Numbers 18: 15 taught that since every Jewish firstborn male child belonged to Yahweh, the parents had to “buy back” (redeem), the child by offering a lamb or turtledoves as a sacrifice in the Temple. The price of redemption for a human baby is five shekels of silver (Num 18:15-16). Jesus never needed to be “bought back,” as he belonged wholly to the Lord, but Joseph kept these laws as an act of obedience to God.
The encounter with Simeon and Anna: By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the old, pious and Spirit-filled Simeon and Anna had been waiting in the Temple for the revelation of God’s salvation. The Greek Church celebrates the Hypapánte or Feast of the Encounter commemorating the encounter of the New Testament represented by Jesus with the Old Testament represented by Simeon and Anna. Simeon, who is described as a righteous and devout man, obedient to God’s will, addresses himself to our Lord as a vassal or loyal servant who, having kept watch all his life in expectation of the coming of his Lord, sees that this moment has “now” come, the moment that explains his whole life. When he takes the Child in his arms, he learns, not through any reasoning process but through a special grace from God, that this Child is the promised Messiah, the Consolation of Israel, the Light of the nations. Simeon recognizes Jesus as the Lord’s anointed one, and in his prayer of blessing he prophesies that Jesus is meant to be the glory of Israel and the light of revelation to the Gentiles. Pope Francis: “Simeon took him in his arms and thanked God that he had finally “seen” salvation. Anna, despite her advanced age, found new vigor and began to speak to everyone about the Baby. It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.”
Simeon’s prophecy: Simeon’s canticle (verses 29-32) is also a prophecy. It consists of two stanzas: the first (verses 29-30) is his act of thanksgiving to God, filled with profound joy for having seen the Messiah. The second (verses 31-32) is more obviously prophetic and extols the divine blessings which the Messiah is bringing to Israel and to all men. The canticle highlights the fact that Christ brings redemption to all men without exception — something foretold in many Old Testament prophecies (cf. Genesis 22:18; Isaiah 2:6; 42:6; 60:3; Psalm 28:2). While Simeon blessed Mary, he warned her that her child would be “a sign of contradiction,” and that she would be “pierced with a sword.” Simeon was prophesying both the universal salvation that would be proclaimed by Jesus and the necessity of suffering in the mission of the Messiah. Jesus came to bring salvation to all men, yet He would be a sign of contradiction because some people would obstinately reject Him — and for this reason He would be their ruin. But for those who would accept Him with faith, Jesus would be their salvation, freeing them from sin in this life and raising them up to eternal life. The Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph marveled, but not because they did not know who Christ was. They were in awe at the way God was revealing Him.
The paradox of blessedness: Mary was given the blessedness of being the mother of the Son of God. That blessedness also would become a sword which would pierce her heart as her Son died upon the cross. The words Simeon addressed to Mary announced that she would be intimately linked with her Son’s redemptive work. The sword indicated that Mary would have a share in her Son’s sufferings. Her suffering would be an unspeakable pain which would pierce her soul. Our Lord suffered on the cross for our sins, and it is those sins which forged the sword of Mary’s pain. Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. But her joy was not diminished by her sorrow because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and his promises. Jesus promised his disciples, “no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). The Lord gives us a supernatural joy which enables us to bear any sorrow or pain and which neither life nor death can take way. Do you know the joy of a life fully surrendered to God with faith and trust? According to Dr. Scot Hann, the feast we celebrate shows a curious turn of events. The Redeemer is redeemed. She who is all-pure presents herself to be purified. Such is the humility of our God. Such is the humility of the Blessed Virgin. They submit to the law even though they are not bound by it.
Anna’s encounter with the Lord and her testifying to the Messiah: Anna was an eighty-four-year-old widow who spent her days in the Temple in fasting and prayer, waiting for the promised Messiah. She was rewarded with the joy of seeing her Redeemer as a Baby. In her excitement, she praised God and introduced the Infant to others around her as the expected Messiah. Supernatural hope grows with prayer and age! Anna was pre-eminently a woman of great hope and expectation that God would fulfill all his promises. She is a model of godliness for all believers as we advance in age. Advancing age and the disappointments of life can easily make us cynical and hopeless if we do not have our hope placed rightly. Anna’s hope in God and His promises grew with age. She never ceased to worship God in faith and to pray with hope. Her hope and faith in God’s promises fueled her indomitable zeal and fervor in prayer and the service of God’s people. We grow in hope by placing our trust in the promises of Jesus Christ and relying not on our own strength, but on the grace and help of the Holy Spirit. After completing the presentation and redemption of baby Jesus and the ritual purification of Mary and the meeting with Simeon and Anna, Joseph and Mary understood more fully their responsibility before God to protect the child as they return to Nazareth
Life messages: 1) Every Holy Mass in which we participate is our presentation. Although we were officially presented to God on the day of our Baptism, we present ourselves and our dear ones on the altar before God our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. Hence, we need to live our daily lives with the awareness both that we are dedicated people consecrated to God and that we are obliged to lead holy lives.
2) We need the assistance of the Holy Spirit to recognize the presence of Jesus in ourselves and in others: All those who, like Simeon and Anna, persevere in piety and in the service of God, no matter how insignificant their lives seem in men’s eyes, become instruments the Holy Spirit uses to make Christ known to others. In His plan of redemption, God makes use of these simple souls to do much good for all mankind. In other words, The Holy Spirit employs ordinary men and women with simple faith as His instruments to bear witness to Christ, His ideals and teachings, just as He used Simeon and Anna. The Holy Spirit reveals the presence of the Lord to us when we are receptive and eager to receive Him. Let us be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit within us to recognize the indwelling presence of the Lord with us and in others.
Joke of the week: 1) Sacrificial presentation: A pig and a chicken were walking down the street together. Every restaurant they passed had signs in the window advertising, “Ham and Eggs.” “See,” said the chicken, “We’re famous.”
The pig grunted. “For you,” he said, “a plate of ham and eggs is just a cackle, it’s all in a day’s work for you, but for me it’s the supreme sacrifice of my life.”
2) Final presentation: In ancient Rome in the days of Nero some poor Christian was being chased around the coliseum by a ferocious lion. The faster he ran, the faster the lion ran. Eventually, it was obvious that the end was near, so the poor fellow fell to his knees and prayed aloud, “Dear Lord, make this lion a Christian!” With that, the lion fell to his knees and began to pray, “Bless us, O Lord, and this Thy gift which I am about to receive…” The end was near!
Lord Jesus, as an infant You were brought to the temple by Your parents out of religious duty. Help all parents to take their duties to God seriously, to inculcate their faith in the next generation by their words and by their actions, so that the faith will be handed on where the faith is first learned—in the family and in the home.
Website of the week: https://youtu.be/F3IOXXgdihc (Feast of Presentation of the Lord) fr. G. Plant
12 Additional anecdotes
1) The Story of the Presentation of the Lord: At the end of the fourth century, a woman named Etheria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her journal, discovered in 1887, gives an unprecedented glimpse of liturgical life there. Among the celebrations she describes is the Epiphany, the observance of Christ’s birth, and the gala procession in honor of his Presentation in the Temple 40 days later. Under the Mosaic Law, a woman was ritually “unclean” for 40 days after childbirth, when she was to present herself to the priests and offer sacrifice—her “purification.” Contact with anyone who had brushed against mystery—birth or death—excluded a person from Jewish worship. This feast emphasizes Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple more than Mary’s purification. The observance spread throughout the Western Church in the fifth and sixth centuries. Because the Church in the West celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25, the Presentation was moved to February 2, 40 days after Christmas. At the beginning of the eighth century, Pope Sergius inaugurated a candlelight procession; at the end of the same century the blessing and distribution of candles which continues to this day became part of the celebration, giving the feast its popular name: Candlemas. (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/presentation-of-the-lord/) .
2) ” The shadow of the cross.” There are two other well-known pictures, each with the same title, “The Shadow of the Cross.” In the first and most well- known painting, the cross-like shadow of the grown-up Jesus is pictured. In a second painting, Holman Hunt depicts the interior of a carpenter’s shop, with Joseph and the Boy Jesus at work. The Boy Jesus pauses in his work, and as he stretches his arms the shadow of the cross is formed on the wall. The third picture is a popular engraving which depicts the Infant Jesus running with outstretched arms to his mother, the shadow of the cross being cast on the ground by his form as he runs. Both pictures are fanciful in form, but their underlying message is true. If we read the Gospels just as they stand, it is clear that the death of Jesus Christ was really in view almost from the outset of his earthly appearance. At first sight there seems little in them about his death, but as we look deeper we see more. It was part of the divine purpose and plan for him from the first, and very early we have a hint of the cross in the words of the aged Simeon to the mother of our Lord: “A sword shall pierce through thine own heart also.
3) Painting presentation of Jesus in the Temple: In the museum of the cathedral in Cuenca, Spain, hangs one of many artistic renderings of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Included in this elaborate and colorful scene are representatives of Judaism, namely, Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna and the source of Christianity, namely, Jesus. Although the Jews and all things Hebrew had been officially expelled from Spain in AD 1492, the artist, Juan de Borgoña (d. AD 1535), illustrated Luke’s account of the Presentation with the stated intention of portraying the necessary continuity between Christianity and Judaism. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez).
4) The Presentation of the Lord is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. We have sermons on the Feast by Bishops Methodius of Patara (+ 312), Cyril of Jerusalem (+ 360), Gregory the Theologian (+ 389), Amphilocius of Iconium (+ 394), Gregory of Nyssa (+ 400), and John Chrysostom (+ 407). Despite its early origin, this Feast was not celebrated with great splendor until the sixth century. In 528, during the reign of Justinian, an earthquake killed many people in Antioch. Other misfortunes followed this one. In 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, carrying off several thousand people each day. During this time of widespread suffering, a solemn prayer service (Litia) for deliverance from evils was celebrated on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and the plague ceased. In thanksgiving to God, the Church established a more solemn celebration of this Feast.
5) “Well, have you ever heard an Amish parent yell?” A scholar was conducting a study of an Amish village. The Amish are a branch of the Mennonite church who live in traditional rural villages far from industrialization and technology: no computers, televisions, refrigerators and telephones. In his study of the Amish village school, the researcher noticed that Amish children never screamed or yelled. That surprised him. So he decided to check it out with the schoolteacher. He told the teacher that he had not once heard an Amish child yell, and asked him why that was so. The teacher replied, “Well, have you ever heard an Amish parent yell?” The inference is clear: Like the parents, so the children!
We are all familiar with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day which we celebrate every year. Why is there not a Parents’ Day where we celebrate father and mother together as a couple? Today should be a good day to focus on both parents together, as we see both parents of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, together make the long journey to Jerusalem to present their firstborn Child in the Temple as the law of God required. In the image of Joseph and Mary presenting Jesus in the Temple, we have a wonderful model of husband and wife united in practicing the faith and in raising their child in the faith. (Fr. Munacci).
6) Whatever we are waiting for shows up sooner or later: A major part of our lives is spent on waiting. We wait for the baby to be born, we wait for our children to grow up and be independent, we wait for our retirement; indeed, we spend a lot of time waiting. Besides that we also have to wait for people who are late, we wait for the bus or train and whatever. But there is something interesting about waiting. Most of the time, whatever we are waiting for shows up sooner or later. Simeon and Anna had waited for a long time, and finally their hope was fulfilled.
7) Bundle of parents’ dreams: Every day, new parents bring their precious bundle home from its birthing place, convinced that their child is the most precious baby in the world, and they begin imaging all the great things this child will accomplish. As they share their dreams for their child with family and friends, there is always someone ready to throw cold water on their expectations. One couple recounting this experience when they had their first child spoke of how indignant they became when anyone would suggest that, first of all, the child would someday make an independent decision about life choices and in addition to that, there undoubtedly would be limitations to what the child might accomplish. Then one day a visiting friend raved about how wonderful the baby was and how lucky they were to have this precious bundle. The friend then offered them this bit of advice, “Love your child with all your heart and soul and present him or her to God every day, asking His blessings. Give the child encouragement in whatever interests he displays. If you do that, you will know that you have been good parents. But if you try to live out your dreams through what you child does, through what he accomplishes, you will only be frustrated when your child makes his or her own life choices, especially if they are not the ones you had hoped to see.”
8) “I know that you know Someone Else is taking care of me”: Bruce and Darlene Marie Wilkinson in their book The Dream Giver for Parents tell about a teenager who noticed that his father worried himself nearly to death, trying unsuccessfully to be everywhere and do everything to protect his child from life’s difficulties. This young man wrote his father the following note: “I am sure you remember, Dad, how you used to tell me stories when I was young and was afraid or insecure. Well, I have noticed that you are often worried about what might become of me when you’re not there to help. Now I want to remind you of one of the stories we read together when I was little. It’s the story of the rooster who got up before dawn every day to sit on the roof of the farmhouse and crow so that the sun would rise. Because that’s what he really believed: that it was his responsibility to make the sun come up. He was always afraid that if he didn’t crow, everything would go wrong. He kept worrying: “What would happen if I fell ill, or even died? How would the crops grow, and the children wake up in time for school, and the frost melt, and the flowers blossom if I weren’t there to make the sun rise? The world would become cold and dark; all the grass and the trees would die and the people too eventually . . .” Then one evening, Rooster attended a party and overslept the next morning. The other animals realized that he was not there to make the sun come up and were just about to panic when they saw a glimmer of light on the horizon . . . It was the sun rising without Rooster! Rooster was miserable when he found out that he had nothing to do with the sun’s rising every morning. And embarrassed! But he was also extremely relieved. “What a weight off my shoulders,” he thought, “that I don’t have to I can’t make the sun come up! Yet, every morning, there it is. There must be Someone Else taking care of all this.”
Dad, you light up my life, but it really isn’t your responsibility to “make the sun rise for me.” I know that you know Someone Else is taking care of me. (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2004), pp. 102-103) That was a lesson that Mary and Joseph had to learn. And it’s a lesson I hope you and I have learned as well. God will take care of those we love, and God will take care of us. Mary and Joseph went on with their lives following Christmas, and so shall we. They faced life’s many challenges, but they did it with love and with faith in God. It was not easy, but they knew God was with them, just as God is with us. It’s good to know. Indeed, it’s the best Good News in the world.
9) “And what exactly would that be?” There was a fascinating conversation on Rush Limbaugh’s talk show a while back. Having just completed Tom Brokaw’s wonderful book, The Greatest Generation, a book filled with inspiring stories of the WWII generation, Rush had taken the position that the current generation of young adults, those in their 20’s, are, for the most part, a bunch of whiners. He said that while they are constantly whining and moaning about the difficulty of their lives in fact, when compared to the hardships faced by their grandparents’ generation, they’ve actually got it easy. Their grandparents had endured truly devastating events like The Great Depression and WWII. The current crop of young adults, he concluded, doesn’t even have a clue about real hardship.
Once Rush had finished his monologue, a self-professed member of this younger generation of adults called in to offer a different perspective. Bright and extremely articulate, the 23 year-old caller said that, while The Great Depression and WWII certainly created terrible hardships for the people who faced them that he, nonetheless, believed his generation faced an even greater hardship.
Limbaugh asked, “And what exactly would that be?” The caller said, “The loss of hope.” He said that his experience indicated that many of today’s young adults had simply stopped believing that things were going to get better. They didn’t expect to live as well as their parents had lived. They weren’t expecting a brighter future. They have simply given up hope. Most of those in his generation, he said, can’t imagine anything worth dying for…and they’re committing suicide in record numbers because many can’t imagine anything worth living for.” Christ’s presence in our lives is as full now as it was for Simeon. The Christ of Christmas brings hope and so much more.
10) “Witnessed by Sandy MacTavish.” Sandy MacTavish was one of the town drunks in a small village in Scotland. The local preacher had tried for years without success to get Sandy to go “on the wagon.” In a last ditch effort, the parson called a meeting at the church of everyone in town who had trouble with alcohol. He was delighted when he saw Sandy MacTavish show up and sit in the back pew. He was so inspired that he delivered the most eloquent sermon of his entire career, telling about the evils of drink and the harmful effects it had on both body and soul. At the end of the sermon, he announced that he was sending around a piece of paper that he wanted people to sign pledging that they would give up drinking. As he watched the list circulate, everyone signed it including Sandy MacTavish. After the service, he was so excited that he snatched up the list without looking at it and ran home to tell his wife about his victory. He unrolled the list before her eyes and sure enough, written across the bottom were the words, “witnessed by Sandy MacTavish.” Let Simeon and Anna who witnessed to the Messiah as a Baby, shape your response to the good news of God’s love shown to us in Bethlehem. It is what needs to happen once Christmas is over!
11) “Don’t be in a hurry; the teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” In the early ’60s, at the height of the civil rights movement, a group of white ministers issued a public statement urging Dr. Martin Luther King, in the name of the Christian faith, to be more patient in his quest for justice and to relax the relentless struggle for civil rights. King’s response came in the form of the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” In the letter, King indicated that he had received similar requests for delay, indeed, that he had just gotten a letter from a “white brother in Texas” who wrote, “… It is possible you are in too great a religious hurry … The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Dr. King replied that such an attitude stemmed from a sad misunderstanding of time, the notion that time itself cures all ills. Time, King argued, could be used for good or for evil. Human progress, he said, is not inevitable, but rather …
… it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. King knew that complete justice must await the coming of God. That was the theme of his final sermon in which he proclaimed, “I’ve been to the mountaintop. I’ve seen the promised land.” But he was persuaded that while we wait, “the time is always ripe to do right” [Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in Why We Can’t Wait (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), p. 89.] Simeon and Anna were also waiting for God to come, but they were not passive in their waiting. Simeon was full of devotion and did what was just. Anna kept the lights burning at the Temple with her ceaseless worship. They waited, but, while they waited, they did what they could.
12) Barbicide: There is an amusing true story about a man named Maurice King. Maurice became displeased with his barber. His barber was not particularly adept with a razor. Rarely would Maurice leave this barber’s shop without a new collection of nicks and scratches. Even more disturbing, Maurice became a little concerned that his barber’s tools weren’t as sanitary as they could be. So he invented a germ-killing blue liquid that he began marketing to barber shops and hair salons. Even today, you walk into any salon or barber shop and you’ll see glass jars of this pale blue liquid on the counters. It’s used for soaking razors, scissors, combs and other equipment. What’s the name of this blue liquid? Barbicide. The name is a little inside joke thought up by Maurice King after a particularly bad trip to the barber. I say it’s an inside joke because the word Barbicide means “kill the barber.” Look for it at your favorite barber shop or hair salon. As foretold by Simeon, Mary and Joseph didn’t escape life’s nicks and scratches. Neither did Jesus. Jesus was a child like any other child, and as such he surely had his bumps and bruises growing up. Mary was likely in her late forties when she experienced the unspeakable tragedy of watching her son die an excruciating death on the cross of Calvary. You think you hurt. Imagine how she hurt. “A sword will pierce your soul.” Life can be very cruel even to the best of people. Can people ever get any better than the Holy Family of Nazareth — Mary, Joseph and Jesus? And yet they had difficult lives. L/20
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 15) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text. for a full version Or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony or under CBCI for my website version. Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604