Today, the Church celebrates the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple also known as Candlemass (or if you are old school, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary).
In our Gospel today, we hear the now famous Song of Simeon:
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
Before Jesus declared it to his followers, he is declared by the “just and devout” Simeon to be the light that enlightens all nations (cf. John 8:12; Luke 2:25). To this holy man, the wide embracing love of God is made known for all people (cf. John 6:39; BCP p. 639). All now share a role in building up the kingdom of God. Like Christ, we are called to be a light that enlightens the nations, telling of God’s love for the human race.
I find it noteworthy Luke’s Gospel has the aged Simeon and Anna recognize and praise the salvation of the world wrought in Jesus. Anna and Simeon provide us with a special gift our modern economies have so far been unable to package and sell. Namely, the gift of Wisdom. For Anna and Simeon, it is their wisdom that lets them see in this little babe the “falling and the rising of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34). It is Wisdom that inspired Simeon’s prophecy to the Blessed Mother that “a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). It is with this holy wisdom we too are able to see revealed in us God’s purposes being worked out.
All of us by virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation are also strengthened and empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve God in his Church (cf. BCP, pp. 418, 860; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 863). We too are invited to recognize Christ in our daily lives—in our neighbors, on our streets, or in our homes. As Franciscans, as fratres minores, we are called to work and live alongside those who are the most vulnerable: the poor, the sick, the elderly, the forgotten.
Anna and Simeon’s place in our Gospel today reminds us the valuable role the elderly in particular play in our societies. We are fortunate that today people across the world live healthier and longer lives than at any time in history. However, in our own society, those of an advanced age are often treated with contempt, discarded, put into homes, ignored, or forgotten. Instead of tapping into this well of experience, it is easier to dispose of the elderly as one would a crumpled piece of paper. In a moving address to the European Parliament, Pope Francis commented on this distressing trend in the Western world.
“To our dismay we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings. Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that – as is so tragically apparent – whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the sick, of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb” (Strasbourg, France; 25 November 2014).
Our religion teaches us that our mission as the Church is to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP, p. 855; cf. John 17:21). All folks, no matter their station in life, are called to love and be loved by God. All people own a share in the kingdom of God.
May Christ’s light awaken in us a light with which we will enlighten the nations. Pray we may grow like Christ and be “filled with wisdom”.
Today our eyes have seen the savior of the world (Luke 2:30; cf. Matthew 13:16-18). How truly blessed we are to see this holy day.
Brother James Nathaniel, SSF can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org