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Contents: Volume 2 - The Presentation (A) February 2, 2020


 

  The

  Presentation

 of the

Lord

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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The Presentation of the Lord 2020

One of the most complicated mysteries of our faith concerns the doctrine that Jesus was fully God and fully man, that is, totally, equally, and at the same time. Our first two readings today in particular help us better understand what seems impossible for us to fathom. It is the Gospel reading, however, to me, that adds our personal human knowledge of being a child, and perhaps a parent or grandparent, to the pure faith that must accompany what remains a true mystery.

In our Gospel story, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus forth to the temple as prescribed by their Jewish faith. There they encounter Simeon and Anna, both of whom tell them amazing things about their child's future. Many of us have said wonderful things about a young child to his/her parents or have been blessed to hear such things about our own child/grandchild, at birth, at Baptism, or as the child grows to maturity. In our own humanity, we wonder about the child's path and think about many, many questions such as "Is this to be?" "Will I be able to encourage, accept, and support him/her along the way?", and perhaps, the unspoken fear "What if his/her path is derailed?"

If we, whose own or friend's children/grandchildren were definitely not destined to be the Savior of the world, view parenthood with such thoughts, can you imagine being Mary or Joseph?! Somehow, "The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. " Is that not that same outcome we wish for all children through prayer?

Now let's look at Jesus. Emerging self-awareness from childhood through adulthood includes multiple times of a very personal "why am I here?" and also a job-related "what am I supposed to do/become?" Jesus lived a quiet life until age 33 while still following the path he accepted from the Father. Fully human, fully divine. Yes, still complicated, no mystery solved here by my words!

For us, however, I think we need to realize and accept the complicated nature of our choices and God's blessings in our lives, the "somehow". While we may not understand this particular mystery or mysteries in our own lives of interacting with others including children and children grown older, we do still have important choices that are ours alone to make. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus chose to follow religious laws and practices and they knew Scripture. Jesus grew up in a household that revered God. You get the point. We, too, can lead intentional lives that point us in the direction of the Father.

As we think about the choices we have made and the choices each new day presents, let us ask Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to guide us. Let us strive to learn more about our faith and practice it intentionally. And Lord, please let us know your favor is upon us, too... in the good times and especially the confusing times and the not-so-good times.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Feast of the Presentation of the Lord February 2 2020

Malachi 3:1-4; Responsorial Psalm 24; Hebrews 2:14-18; Gospel Acclamation Luke 2:32; Luke 2:22-40

It had been a practice of Catholic culture, before the reforms of the middle of the last century, that after childbirth, the new mother would come to the parish church to be accepted back into the parish community. That ritual was called "the churching of mothers." That Catholic ritual was founded on the Jewish ritual of Purification of the woman who had given birth. The reason for that ritual was based on the Hebrew understanding of the rigors of childbirth. A flow of blood during birthing reduced the vitality of the mother. Because of this weakening, the mother was not whole, not as filled with vitality indicative of the fullness of life that was a connection to the creator. After eight days most women recovered their strength and thus were once again able to come into the presence of God. The blood poured out from sacrificial animals – a lamb and a turtle dove for families of means, two turtle doves for families of lesser means – was an affirmation of a return to full vitality. The ritual – both Hebrew and Catholic – were both a ceremonial welcoming back the new mother into full participation with the assembly. The Jewish tradition includes the circumcision of male children on the eighth day following birth. The Catholic tradition includes the baptism of both male and female children.

Baptism, just as circumcision marked the entrance into the Jewish community, marks an entrance into the Catholic community. Baptism is a commitment of the parents for the child’s growth in wisdom, age, and grace. What we’ve forgotten in our "rugged individualistic culture" is that Baptism brings to the community an obligation to support and assist this child into becoming a full and participating member. Just as circumcision for the Jew was the beginning of a lifetime of the living according to Jewish law and traditions, so also Baptism is intended to be the beginning of a lifetime of growing into the Way of Christ. The Assembly comes together on the Sabbath – Christians on Sundays - to learn, to participate, and to worship. Baptism is not a "once and done" matter for the parents and then the child. Nor is the Assembly’s role just congratulatory expressed by applause. That Assembly takes on an obligation to walk with the parents and the child and to celebrate with that child the great moments of their living.

The coming to the age of discernment brings the child to the altar to receive communion. At about seven years old they can discern the Eucharist as more than bread and wine. They recognize the Body and the Blood of the Christ. That is the nourishment, what binds the child to the Assembly in the Mystical Body. It is the healing medicine that fulfills the human need to survive and grow in an adversarial world that would make us slaves to its way. The bread and wine consecrated are derived from the gifts produced by the daily works of the people of the assembly. The Eucharistic ritual is the consecration of those gifts, transforming them into food and drink for all. That consumption incorporates each person into the unity of the Mystical Body of the Christ.

The child learns to accept responsibility for their choices and to admit when they’ve failed in the practice of Reconciliation. There the growing person finds help in navigating the pathways of life. Bad choices lose their power. There the person discovers the healing balm of forgiveness and acceptance.

That child, like Jesus, is welcomed into adulthood and confirmed in the faith that grows through childhood. The child takes an adult role in serving the Assembly and in modeling the Way of the Lord to the world. It is truly a role of evangelizing. It is truly presenting an alternative to the violence and self-centeredness of the world. It is truly making the Christ present in the marketplace and factory.

That child become adult comes to the Assembly when they experience a love that is a lifetime commitment. The assembly is a necessary witness to the adult practice of committed love. That is a love stronger than death. The marriage of two is makes present to the Assembly the very life of the Trinity.

In Baptism all are given the roles of priesthood, prophecy, and leadership. All are called to bless, to make holy all their lives touch. All are called as prophets to discern truth that contradicts lies in the world. All are called as kings and queens to shepherd others to fullness of life. Their actions, their kindnesses, and their compassion for others and for all creation are evidence of this role. Some few are called to, are ordered to a role of priesthood, prophecy, and loving kindness that calls together and presides over the Assembly in liturgy and in liturgy practiced through dedicated service.

That child at baptism is destined to eternal living with the Creator God, the Brother who shows us the way, and the Spirit that binds us to one another in unconditional and self-sacrificing love for others and for God’s creation. Their final journey is fortified by the Assembly’s anointing and food for that final journey.

The reading from the prophet Malachi reflects the time in Judaism after Cyrus the Great ended the Babylon captivity. The Jews came home and, despite a despair at the task before them, rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the temple of Solomon. Malachi warns the people busy about rebuilding that they must also prepare their hearts. For the Lord God will return to the temple. And his presence will sweep through the nation like the fire of a refiner of gold. His presence will purify the nation’s hearts and minds like the lye of a fuller. Then their sacrifices of worship will mean something as it will come from their hearts and not merely from a recalled ritual. The Law will serve as a guide and not some obligation that can only serve to condemn. Their circumcision is more than a ritual. It tells us in our time that our Baptism is more than a ritual or something to please grandmothers and grandfathers. It is more than a cultural practice. It has commitment to the future; it leads to understanding and a consciousness of the Presence of God.

The reading from Luke may seem like only a part of the history of Mary and Jesus. Mary and Joseph bring Jesus with them to the temple for Mary’s purification. That purification returned her to full participation in their community of faith. Jesus is presented to the Lord in the Temple. In the temple courtyard the Family encounters two old, old people. They experienced life as Jews and grew in their faith and connection with the Lord. Simeon understood that he would see the Promised One before he saw death. He rejoiced, he embraced this child and broke out in a song. That song is a song of joy and of fulfillment. "Now, Lord, you may let your servant to in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation…" We still sing this song at the end of the official prayer of the church in the Office of Hours. It is the closing canticle of the day. The joy of his song is mitigated by his prophecy. This child’s life and work will be a cause of division. His life itself will be a sign of contradiction. The death of this child will seem to be a contradiction of his life’s work and an abysmal failure. Mary herself will suffer greatly as though a sword pierced her heart. Apparently, salvation has it costs.

They also encountered a widow who spent most of her adult life seeking the presence of the Lord. It is not a fluke that she sees in this child a great gift of God’s presence. She told everyone she met of her encounter, thus actually becoming the first disciple of the Way.

These two old persons had lived long and had learned wisdom. So it is with us. As we live in the light that is the Christ we learn and come to wisdom through our experiences and our prayers. We become what is said of this child at the end of our gospel. "The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him."

The message for us this day is about what awaits as we live. We are connected to a faith-community whose support and life offers us opportunities for growth in strength, age, wisdom, and grace. That is the reason we come together to listen, to share, to worship, and to receive nourishment. In turn we should expect to be welcomed by our community, to be supported in our faith, and to grow in wisdom, age and grace by our participation in that community. Human life is a complex of joys, sorrows, and routine endeavors. However mundane this seems, it has to do with our growth in wisdom and grace.

In former times, this feast day of the Presentation of the Lord was called Candlemas Day. It was on this day that the church blessed candles brought to the church. In those days before electrification, candles provided light to the darkness in most homes especially in the nights. Through this blessing the faithful understood that the Christ is what lights our world to see its meaning, purpose, and source. We still use candles on the table to celebrate special occasions. The Presentation of Jesus in the temple at Mary’s purification is viewed as the public beginning of his lighting up the world in truth, meaning, and purpose. Formerly on this feast day, throats were blessed with candles with the blessing of St. Blaise. St. Blaise is the patron to whom people go with conditions of the throat. Just old customs and practices that we’ve forgotten. They still retain meaning and help us come to understand the light that is the Lord.

Carol & Dennis and Charlie dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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AT HOME WITH GOD AND GOD’S PEOPLE: THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

A man called ‘Ross’ flies to the USA on business. He tells his wife and children he’ll be back in five weeks’ time. As the days go by the whole family misses him more and more. They can hardly wait to see him again. They make plans for a big party to welcome him home. But on the very day he’s due to fly back to Australia, they get word that he has broken his leg in a skiing accident in Colorado, and is laid up indefinitely in hospital. Now, in addition to their longing to see him again, they are sad and anxious about when that will be.

Then all of a sudden it happens. One evening when the family is feeling particularly down in the dumps and particularly quiet with one another, in walks Ross. One and all, they jump up from their chairs and yell with delight. His wife Jenny speaks for everyone when she hugs her husband and says: 'I can't tell you how marvellous it is to have you here with us again, dear. It's been so long we were beginning to wonder whether we'd ever see you again. You know, Ross, you're our rock. Without you, our home feels empty.'

That little slice of real life is somewhat similar in detail and meaning to the gospel story today of the Presentation to God of the Child Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple, the House of God. It’s a story of coming home, a home-coming which means relief and hope, life and joy for all who experience it.

For Simeon and Anna, those elderly true believers living their lives more forward than backward, who meet and welcome the Christ-child to his Father's house, it has profound meaning. These representatives of the Jewish people, like the Magi before them who represented the gentiles at their epiphany, revel and rejoice in this new manifestation of God. Simeon, guided and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, hugs the baby born to save the whole human race. He praises God for letting him, at the very end of his life, come face to face with the Messiah, the Saviour, the Lord and Light of the world, the one whom he has hoped and longed to see. In sheer delight he cries out to God:

'Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace,

just as you promised;

because my eyes have seen the salvation

which you have prepared for all the nations to see,

a light to enlighten the pagans

and the glory of your people Israel.'

Anna, an old widow-woman, at home in the Temple night and day, also rejoices in the privilege of meeting there the Saviour of God’s people in the person of the Christ-child. She too begins to praise God. But more than that, she speaks of the greatness, goodness and destiny of this baby, to any others that share her longing for the coming of the Messiah.

To both Simeon and Anna, then, the Presentation means that the Christ-child (the Messiah) has come to meet his God and theirs in God's own house. In turn they themselves are meeting the Christ-child, and in his company they are experiencing relief and peace, light and life, hope and joy. In a word, their meeting with Jesus is an experience, a powerful experience, of salvation.

For all of us who come together today to celebrate the Presentation of the Christ-child, it reminds us of all that Jesus Christ our Saviour has meant to us. We first met him on that momentous day our parents and godparents led us into the House of God and into the community of Christ to be baptized. We have met him again and again many times since. For example, in the guidance and protection, the goodness and kindness, the love and support, of our parents! In the love and friendship of many other significant others in our lives! In things that have happened to us and in things we have experienced! And especially in all the sacraments that we have received and celebrated, such as Confirmation, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders.

It is precisely because of the length and depth of our relationship with Jesus Christ, that in this Eucharist we will be praising God with these words taken from the Preface of the Feast:

'… we too, go forth, rejoicing to encounter your Salvation ….'

Precisely too because of the length and depth of our relationship with Jesus, we will petition God in words of our Prayer after Holy Communion:

'… may we, going forth to meet the Lord, obtain the gift of eternal life!’

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net. Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


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Volume II Archive

We keep up to six articles in this archive.  The latest is always listed first.

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