February 2, 2012
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire, like fullers' alkali. He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they can make the offering to Yahweh with uprightness. Malachi 3:2-3
"[M]y eyes have seen the salvation which you have made ready in the sight of the nations; a light of revelation for the gentiles and glory for your people Israel. As the child's father and mother were wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, 'Look, he is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is opposed- and a sword will pierce your soul too -- so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.'" Luke 2:30-35
Father, may the prayers that we offer to you in our holy longing be answered like you answered the petitions of Simeon and Anna. May we observe your laws above all others and offer to you our prayers, sacrifice and actions to carry them out.
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is an event remembered on Mondays and Saturdays when we turn to the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary in prayer. It was an important event in the life of the Holy Family -- and for Simeon and Anna. Joseph and Mary did not consider the duties of Mosaic law an option to obey at their convenience.
From the outset of the Good News, we see the virtue of obedience on display at every Scriptural encounter. Mary following the will of God -- "May it be done to me according to your Word." Joseph taking Mary to Bethlehem to complete the census as called for by Roman law. Heading off on exile BACK to Egypt -- reversing the path of freedom taken by the Jews when they won their freedom and escaped slavery. They went to Egypt to obey the command of the angel and then retraced the steps of the return to the Holy Land once the coast was clear. Finally, bringing their son and the required sacrifice to the temple at the appropriate hour. I am sure if we had even more stories in the Good News about the early life of Jesus and his family, following the law would continue to be a central theme.
However, after this obedient start in life, Jesus took a decided turn against the laws of the land and the church and the political establishment. His words and deeds confronted people with the choice they had to make between the Law of God and the law of the people.
What does The Presentation of the Lord mean for us today?
· Are we willing to offer up our patience -- awaiting the revelation of our mission in life?
· Are we willing to follow the laws of God like Mary and Joseph did?
· Are we willing to bring a suitable sacrificial gift to support the works of the Church?
· Are we willing to listen and truly hear the challenging message in the scriptures?
· Are we willing to bring that message from the sanctuary to the streets like Anna?
· What does it matter if we believe in our hearts and not carrying that out in our actions?
The tension with systemic laws builds throughout Jesus' life. He boils down the laws of faith to two. Beyond loving God and loving our neighbor, sometimes our conscience and moral compass calls us to obedience of other laws and sometimes to civil disobedience.
A modern David vs. Golaith story has begun to unfold featuring a tiny Benedictine college in North Carolina which is taking on the law of the land. You can read more about it here. (http://blog.cardinalnewmansociety.org/2012/01/20/belmont-abbey-college-is-the-last-best-hope-for-religious-liberty/)
Also, for the broader picture, read Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan's column that was published in the Wall Street Journal. (http://usccb.org/about/media-relations/resources/wall-street-journal-op-ed-on-religious-freedom.cfm)
You can send a message to your political leaders on this issue by turning to the Action Alert here: http://www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=292