Faith and Patience to Recognise God’s Gifts

Presentation of the Lord Year-A

Readings: Mal 3:1-4; Hebrew 2:14-18
Psalm: Ps 24:7, 8, 9, 10
Gospel: Luke 2:22-40

WE ARE all familiar with the story connected with the feast of the presentation of the Lord, which we are now celebrating. The scene began with the arrival of Joseph, Mary and the child Jesus in Jerusalem to fulfil religious duties. We are told that the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple follows the religious law concerning the consecration of a firstborn male child.

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But we hear in the gospel a hint that the Holy Family also went to the Temple to observe another law—more significant to the Jewish religious identity and practice. This was the purification rite for Mary as stated in Leviticus 12. Mary was considered ritually unclean after giving birth. In fact, the two turtle-doves they offered to the Temple were not meant as offering for Jesus’ presentation. Rather, they were sacrificial offerings as a sign of Mary’s ritual cleansing after giving birth. This is the reason why we celebrate this feast on February 2, 40 days after the date marked as the birthday of Jesus.
After these, we are then introduced to two characters—Simeon and Anna. Both are depicted as pious Jews who recognised the significance of the child Jesus as revealed to them by God, and gave witnesses to him. From this gospel narrative, we can pick up two things that we can reflect upon.
First, by narrating Mary’s rite of purification, the gospel demonstrates that Joseph and Mary were faithful to God’s law; in the Jewish religious and social standards, Joseph and Mary were good Jews doing all that the Law requires of them. In a deeper sense, Joseph and Mary’s piety demonstrates that the “salvation that accompanies the Messiah does not disregard the Law of Moses but walks in obedience to it.” 
For us, the message is that we cannot say we love God and yet we refuse to follow Church teachings. Pope Francis says “…it is an absurd dichotomy”—makes no sense—“to love Christ without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church.” Because we “receive the Gospel message in the Church and we carry out our holiness in the Church, our path in the Church.”

Then we turn to the characters of Simeon and Anna. Simeon is “an upright and devout man,” while Anna “served God night and day with fasting and prayer.” When we look at these two characters, we see two ordinary faithful—laities like us who were constantly and patiently seeking God; who were attuned to the whisper of the Spirit. From the gospel text, we can imagine that both of them would have seen many first-born sons presented at the Temple in consecration to the Lord. But because of their attitude of constantly looking for God’s actions in the ordinariness of their lives, they were able to see something special in this particular child of a couple from Nazareth that goes beyond the expected. Their faith in God gave them the ability to recognise the child Jesus as “the salvation which God have prepared for all the nations”, and the “deliverance of Jerusalem.”
In addition to faith, Simeon and Anna also had the patience to listen, seek, and discern God and God’s actions. And they were rewarded by God because of this.
In our own lives, we sometimes fail to recognise God’s presence and action. Maybe not because we do not have faith. But because we do not have the patience to discern; the patience to listen or look, and the patience in seeking the face of God. We live in an era of instant acquisitions—instant photos (“selfies”), instant social networking (“instagram”), instant money even instant noodles. And there’s the temptation to also apply this to God. And if things we want cannot be given to us quickly; if we cannot perceive God in an instant, we complain: “Too hard, too long, too many ideas, too theological.” And then we give up.
But that is not how God works. True, he could have just said in an instant that we are forgiven; that we are saved. But that is just like bad and lazy parenting. The point is we need to learn for our own sake. The whole salvation history, reading the scriptures from the Old Testament to the Ascension of Jesus Christ, we can see that it is a long story of how God tries to teach his people to come into relationship with him and share in his glory. We need to learn. And it is important that we ourselves make that choice to be with God.
In this Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, we are being encouraged to imitate the faith and patience of Simeon and Anna. The faith that would move us to constantly seek and discern God and His gifts in our lives, and patience to persevere and endure this vocation.

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