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Pastoral Reflection on the Presentation of the Lord

Fr. Ed Nowak, CSP
Fr. Ed Nowak, CSP
February 3, 2023

Malachi 3:1-4, Hebrews 2,14-18, Luke 2:22-40

On February 2nd each year, the church celebrates the ancient feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the temple.  Luke records this event in his Gospel account to show that Jesus was very much a part of human history and religious traditions.   Five times in the Gospel, Luke mentions that Jesus was raised according to the Law of the Lord.  The offering made by Mary and Joseph of two young pigeons was known as the offering of the poor.   If a family could afford to do so they were supposed to offer a lamb and a pigeon but since lambs were expensive, the poor could substitute another pigeon for the lamb.   Luke’s intent is for us to know that Jesus was born into a family where the budget was tight.  Jesus grew up knowing how hard it was to make ends meet.

According to the author of the letter to the Hebrews, it is the very real and human experiences of Jesus that are important for our salvation.  Jesus became fully human so that our humanity could be redeemed.   We are told that since he himself was tested through what he suffered, he can help us who are tempted.  Jesus knows firsthand of our very human struggles to be faithful in living the life of love that God calls us to.  Jesus can offer us compassion since he himself knows how hard it is not to give in to our human weaknesses.

There is a Dennis the Menace cartoon that I believe captures the essence of what the author of the letter to the Hebrews is telling us.  As Dennis is kneeling and saying his prayers before going to bed, one can imagine him recounting all the trouble that he got into that day. The cartoon shows him finishing his prayer by saying…”So I figure you’ll understand having a boy of your own.”  That’s just it;  God does understand.   And because God understands our difficulties even better than we do, God will give us exactly what we need to overcome our problems.  God’s solutions may not be exactly what we expect; but they will be exactly what we need.

Simeon was given what he needed to fulfill his life.  God revealed to him His Son Jesus.  On his part, Simeon was open to experiencing God’s revelation even in the form of a helpless infant.  Because of his life of prayer, Simeon was very much in tune with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  His prayerfulness enabled him to recognize the infant Jesus for who Jesus truly was.   Simeon proclaims that Jesus will be a revealing light to the Gentiles.   Because Jesus is our light, we traditionally celebrate this feast with the blessing of candles that will be used for prayer in the coming year.  We bless and recall that it is Christ our Light who is the ultimate source of light to dispel all darkness.

On the Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend, there is a prayer service Saturday night that incorporates this image of light dispelling darkness.  The reflection on how a candle spends itself to give light to a darkened room emphasizes how love must give of itself to bring Christ’s light to the world.   As our candles burn, they can remind us that Jesus himself gave his very life to be our light.

With our electric lights today it is easy to take for granted the power it takes  to dispel the darkness.   That is until the power fails.   When we do not have electricity, it is then that we most realize how dependent we are to having electricity to light our way.  Even when the power is out, I habitually walk into a dark room and flip the light switch before realizing what I am trying to do.  We depend a lot on electric lights to dispel the physical darkness.  God wants us to be just as dependent on Jesus to dispel our spiritual darkness.  Unlike our reliance on electricity which can be interrupted, Jesus our spiritual light is always present and available to us in prayer and through the support of others.

Each of us has the responsibility of being a child of Jesus our Light.  In baptism we were given a candle and told to walk always as a child of the light.   What does it mean to walk always as the child of the light?

Robert Fulghum tells of a time that he attended a seminar of Greek culture on the Island of Crete, led by the Greek philosopher, teacher and politician Alexander Papaderos.   At the end of the two-week session, Papaderos himself closed the last meeting by asking the usual, “Are there any questions?”  For a moment there was silence, then Fulghum asked, “Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?”  Laughter filled the room and people stirred to go home.  Paperderos raised his hand.  There was silence.  Looking intensely at Fulghum, he said, “I will answer your question.”   Taking his wallet out of his pocket he retrieved a mirror the size of a quarter.  He told how, as a small boy, he found the small fragment of mirror on the road where a German army motorcycle had been wrecked.  The mirror became a new toy.  He was fascinated by the ability to reflect light into the darkest places.  Papaderos then said, “As I grew older I learned that reflecting light is not just a child’s game.  It is a metaphor for what I might do with my life.  I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of the light, but I can reflect the light.  The light-truth, understanding, knowledge- is always there, but it will not shine into the darkest places unless I reflect it.  I have come to understand this as the meaning of life.”  With that bold statement, Papaderos took his mirror and redirected the light of the sun onto the faces of the participants of the seminar.

We connect with the light of Christ through our daily prayer.  Our daily prayer can guide us to where that transforming light best needs to be directed to the world around us.  Each of us is called to combat the darkness of fear, hatred and violence by shining the light of Christ’s peace, love and hope into all those dark places in the world.  When we do this, the light of Christ will truly be a revealing light for all the world to see.