Sunday Scriptures

Our Messiah Makes No Empty Promises

by Father Anthony F. Raso

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Nostalgia is certainly a two-edged sword. Looking back over time, we’ll remember some wonderful things that happened, but there are also some heartbreaking events that our memories will recall. Both the joyful and the sorrowful memories, as our Blessed Mother learned well, are part of our lives and have made us the people we are.

Of course, even the joyful memories can spoil us, and the sorrowful memories can embitter us and make us give up on others and even on God. On the other hand, we can choose to be like the people we encounter in the readings today on this Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord and allow ourselves to be enriched and blessed by everything that happens to us.

We have free will, all of us, and our response to God can be as cold as ice or as warm as a Presentation-day candle. That is as much up to us as it was to those five people we meet in the Gospel today.

Extraordinary Patience

It is clear, in the case of Simeon and Anna, that the promise of the Messiah had been given to them, and all they had to do was to be patient until He appeared.

Well, as it turned out, it required an extraordinary amount of patience because it is only at the end of their long lives that the promise is fulfilled.

Some of us would have given up long before they did but these two are saints – and saints become saints not just when they walk through the gates of heaven but long before that. It takes a lifetime for them, but when the Lord finally appears in the Temple, Simeon is there waiting for Him. His mind is open, his heart ready and some timelessly beautiful words ready to say.

Light of Revelation

While many of us might have stopped waiting, Simeon is there to see at last the “light of revelation” and “the glory of (his) people” for which he has been waiting all his life. When the day arrives, Anna too is in the Temple, filled with joy and ready to begin the proverbial “first day of the rest of her life” in giving thanks to God and speaking about the great gift that her eyes have seen. You can always tell if someone is a potential saint: They act like saints, early and often!

This must have been a precious moment for Simeon and Anna, as well as for the faithful Mary and Joseph. However, we are not allowed to forget that “two-edged sword.” As Simeon is rejoicing and as the fourth Joyful Mystery takes place in time, the promise of the Sorrowful Mysteries is also presented to Mary.

This Child, Simeon tells her, will be “contradicted” and a sword will pierce her heart when she meets with her Son on the way of the cross and as she stands at the foot of that cross and watches Him die.

Decidedly Chilling Moment

Simeon is prophesying the crucifixion of the Child in her arms – and inasmuch as she is His mother, He will still be “the Child in her arms” when she stands before the Cross on Golgotha. This is a decidedly chilling moment in this Gospel, but her reaction is one to which we are accustomed: Faith, and trust in the Father in Heaven Who chose her to be the mother of His Divine Son.

We cannot presume in any realistic way that Mary never wavered. She probably “wavered” a lot as God’s will for her life became clear. However, she never loses her faith, and this is proof positive to her love for her Son, His Divine Father and His Holy Spirit.

God Picks Heroes

At her side, of course, is Joseph, the quiet man whose actions will forever speak volumes. God surely knows what He is doing when He picks out His heroes.

Finally, there is Baby Jesus. And as the author of Hebrews tells us today, “… because He Himself was tested through what He suffered, He is able to help those who are being tested.”

As Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna seem to know in their hearts, this Child will never let us down, will never walk away from us, will never abandon us and will always be there at our side, especially when we need Him the most. That is why He was born; that is what He was doing in the Temple that day – making a promise to us that He will never break, not for all of eternity.

Malachi assures us in our first reading that the Messenger of the Lord, for whom Simeon waited a lifetime, will offer a great sacrifice. And every time we look at a crucifix, we know that this was no empty promise.

What about our response to that promise? Will we stop believing in Him? Will we believe in Him only when things are going well? Or will we be now what those three saints, and the Queen of All Saints, were in the Temple that day?

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Readings for the Feast of The Presentation of Our Lord

Malachy 3: 1-4

Psalm 24: 7, 8, 9, 10

Hebrews 2: 14-18

Luke 2: 22-40 or Luke 2: 22-32[hr]

Father Anthony F. Raso is the pastor of Guardian Angel parish, Brighton Beach.

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