Malachi 3:1–4/Psalm 24:7,8,9,10/Hebrews 2:14–18/Luke 2:22–40
Fr. Dan Evbotokhai
Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. which occurs forty days after our celebration of the birth of Jesus. The Holy family made a journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem in order to fulfill the law. Again, in today’s liturgy we carry out the practice of blessing candles and processing into the Church, a practice that symbolizes our journey from the circular to the sacred or from our earthly home to the heavenly Jerusalem.
In the first reading, Malachi prophesied saying that the Lord of Hosts will suddenly appear in the Temple as the refiner’s fire and the purifier that will purify sinners until they present the right and just offering to the Lord. He is able to do this because as the second reading noted even though he shares our nature he is without sin. Therefore, for all of us whom have strayed he has come as light to drive away the darkness within us. The Psalm announces that Jerusalem is about to receive a great visitor. The Psalmist identifies him as “The Lord of hosts … the King of glory.” He will come and reign justice and righteousness among his people. He is the light of the world.
In the gospel, Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (Luke 2:22). The presentation of Jesus in the temple is in fulfillment with the Jewish law. Every male child must be taken to the temple and an animal must be offered as a sacrifice. There are two basic lessons here:
1. We must bring our children to Christ: Mark 10:14 says Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs. Today, apart from the fact that we bring our children forward for baptism how many of us still encourage them to join societies in the Church. How many of our children are active youth members or choristers or legionaries and the likes. This mystery shows that it is important not to neglect the duty of teaching children about God and His laws. Prov.22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Eph.6:4 says Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; instead, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Talking about instructions: Deu. 4:9,11:19 says teach them to your children and grandchildren. Deu 6:7 says you shall teach them diligently to your children. Beloved in Christ, teach your children and allow them to be taught don’t just lock them in the car like robot and carry them home when their mates are have a praying meeting in the Church.
2. Mary and Joseph kept their religious obligation without delay. Therefore, we too must Keep your religious obligations. Today, we find it very difficult to keep some religious obligations. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in its Compendium, enumerates the following five:
1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labour.
2. You shall confess your sin at least once a year.
3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least once during the Easter season.
4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.
What is our appreciation of these obligations? Do we still remember to go to confession at all? What has happened to Sunday rest? Is it not all about meetings and parties? How many communicants still receive communion faithfully? What about fasting and abstinence? Do we sincerely and truly provide for the needs of the Church? How often do we still keep the one hour fast before mass? Do we even remember that there is something like that? When we don’t fulfill our obligations in worship we are outside the grace that the worship brings. That is we pray and pray and don’t get result.
Again, it is clear that Joseph and Mary lived in Poverty. The traditional offering for purification was a lamb and a turtledove if the parents were rich, and two doves or two pigeons if they were poor. They offered two turtle doves as opposed to a small lamb that a wealthier couple would have offered. In obedience to religious obligation everybody has a role to fulfill, the poor and the rich have something to offer. In Mark 12:43 “Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others”. Thank God in most places harvest levies are graded of course all fingers are not equal. But most times when we are told what to pay we grumble. Offering suppose to be an expression of your blessing, from what you have given you offer; but most times for some of us from what we have been blessed with we offer the least. After all the slogan is “nothing is too big and nothing is too small! My dear, “nothing is too big but something is too small”. Ps.4:5 says offer a just sacrifice and trust in the Lord. A just sacrifice is the right sacrifice; therefore, let us make our sacrifices right.
Again, Simeon and Anna are two basic character that are worthy of emulation. They were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Simeon and Anna were people who had the understanding of the time and season. They had a perfect sense of discernment. They knew that the prophecy of seven hundred years the time of its fulfillment has come. They understood the time and knew what they ought to do. They have to be at prayer awaiting the manifestation of the Messiah. The bible says in 1 Chron 12:32 the sons of Issachar these are they who had the understanding of the times and who knew what Israel ought to do. In Esther 1:13 we are told that the King consulted the wise men who knew the times.
These people understood their times and that affected their choices and disposition, they knew they were on to fulfill a purpose, and so Anna could fast day and night until she was 84 because she wanted to see the fulfillment of that purpose. She became an example of the consecrated life. Those in the consecrated life are specially celebrated today (…) Today, we don’t have the understanding of the times, and so we are reckless with time. We come to church everyday but we don’t know our place in God. we do not understand that these days to overcome world we must spend time with the word, we must learn the art of consciously and constantly steering our spirit in order to become sensitive to the Divine will. We cannot know what God is saying at any point in time if we do not spend time with him.
These two great characters were people of prayer. They are perfect example that prayer and fasting produce result. Anna prayed and fasted. Fasting restrains our physical pleasure, but it enhances our spiritual pleasure. There certain things in life we cannot overcome except by fasting and prayers. Fasting and prayer is not a burden it enables you to align yourself with God better. When the disciples could not deliver the boy with the evil spirit, in Matt17:21 Jesus said to them this type cannot be removed except by fasting and prayer. Beloved in Christ, that situation will not change except by fasting and prayer.
Lastly, if you are looking for a committed woman, you see Anna, if you are looking for a patient woman, you see Anna, if you are looking for a prayerful woman you see Anna, if you are looking for a consecrated woman you see Anna, if you are looking for those who can use their old age well, you see Simeon and Anna. Today, as we present ourselves to the Lord may He give us the enabling grace to use our time well through Christ our Lord. Amen
Fr. Thomas Oyode
Hope Strengthens the Will
Luke again presents to us the concrete simple life of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Here we see how the Jews received the birth of a child with joy and gratitude., a disposition that is expressed, even today, in songs, prayers and sharing of food, much as it is done in many African communities. As the family gathers, led by an elder, they pray that the child would live and grow into the covenant, a life of the Torah, of marriage and of good deeds. A semblance to this prayer is still found in some of the rites for Christian naming of children among catholics. It is hoped that more and more Catholic communities led by their Pastors, would continue to discover the value of this rite, practice and preserve it, and use it also as a veritable tool for evangelising some of the traditional practices of child naming in most African communities.
Again, the story of the presentation of the Lord also evokes momories of our meditation on the rosary, our reflection on the joyful mysteries. Usually, the heart is inspired to refelect on the simplicity of the Holy Family, if not even their poverty. In spite of being so specially favoured by God, one may be led to ask why is it that they could only afford a pair of turtle doves, the poorest of offerings recommended for this rite? How were Mary and Joseph feeling as they approached God’s altar? And then we recall that what the Lord expects from us is a humble and contrite heart, a heart of simple obedience to his Word and cooperation with his will (Ps. 40:7-9., Heb. 10:5-7). A humble acceptance of our nothingness. He does not expect holocaust and fat offerings of envelopes and food stuff. He does not.
Sometimes we also are led to seeing our lives in the mystery of the rosary in a way that in Jesus, the Blessed Virgin continues to present us to God for our santificazion. In Mary, we begin to see our need for purification and chastity, for the Immaculate Virgin did not need any purification, strictly speaking. We are moved to call on the most pure Virgin to teach us how to go to confession, make firm resolution to avoid sin, and to humble ourselves before God’s mercy. At other times, we see how Mary and Joseph, husband and wife, were faithful to the Christian practices and traditions since what they did today is what was required by the Jewish law (Lev. 12:3-8). With this, we are challenged to seek to be faithful to our Christian faith and practices as authentic catholics, to be responsible Christian parents and catechists in our own homes. Thus, today’s liturgy in some way, evokes memories of our encounter with the life of the Holy Family all the times we have had to pray the Rosary.
However, we may reflect further on the devotedness of Simeon and Anna in hope and expectation. Indeed all three readings(Mal. 3:1-4., Heb. 2:14-18., Lk. 2:20-40) show that God is present in our midst, that the Lord visits us, he comes to us and be accompanies us in our history. Let us take a look at the context of today’s gospel so as to highlight this theme of hope more clearly. Luke wrote after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE by the Romans, after the death of Christ. Like the first desruction by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, the Jews were scattered into exile and had become desolate, helpless and hopeless., it was a tensed atmosphere. The life of Simeon and Anna thus, is a story of expectation for deliverance and liberation. It was also a time when Caesar was perceived as a saviour who would restore peace to the then Roman empire. Christ steps in as The Saviour, the fulfilment of the people’s hope. Thus, as Simoen receives the Saviour, the Holy Spirit, under whose guidance and inspiration he has long been awaiting the arrival of the Saviour, fills him with joy of the manifestation of the Lord’s presence in the midst of the people. The same is said of Anna.
The experience of the Jews is not far from our own existential conditions today. We bear within us so much worries, cares and anxieties both personal and collective. We are weighed down by the thoughts of our sinfulness and weaknesses, our helplessness before temptation and sin. The world around us seems to be caving in or crashing down us due to numerous economic challenges, political upheavals,global security threats, global health challenges, poverty, sicknesses, diseases and the crisis of migration to mention only a few. The human society can not but look beyond itself and its ideas for peace, freedom and well-being. Nevertheless, we are reminded today that only hope can save us by keeping us strong till the manifestation of the Lord. This kind of hope is not built on false human promises, on a forecast of economic transformation hinged on a blueprint or an economic plan of some sorts. It is a Christian hope that, as Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI wrote, is built on faith in a better future, not because we see the future or have perfecf plans for the future but because God has a perfect plan for that future. Thus in reference to Romans 8.24, he tells us that we are saved only in hope, hope in a future that would not end in emptiness (See Spe Salvi, 2007). This is the hope that gives strength from within, urging tbe heart to hold firm and move on in spite of the turbulence in the world. This is an assurance for us, a consolation for those who wait on God in fidelity.
Precisely for this reason, today we celebrate world day of the Consecrated Life, Religious men and women who dedicate their lives specially, among Christ faithful, in prayer and work, hoping on the Lord to build the world, to recreate the hearts of men, to restore peace and to preserve the dignity of man that all may live and fulfil their God-given destiny. Their calling is only part of our collective call to bringing hope and consolation to humanity., for by baptism, all of us share in this mission secundum propriam cuiusque condicionem, according to the proper conditions of each. It is thus, a day of consolation for all those who pray, work and hope for a better human society according to the will of God. Let us all unite in prayer with a firm hope and faith in the redeeming love and mercy of God. On this feast day of the Presentation of the Lord, let us offer up prayers, including the holy rosary for those who are living in hopelessness, those who are cut off from family and friends due to exile, war and migration, those who are held as prisnosners of conscience, those who have no one to pray for them. May the Lord visit them, may their hopes be fulfilled and their joy complete. May the Lord also console and sustain our Reverend Sisters, Reverend Fathers and Reverend Brothers in their work of bringing God’s hope to men’s hearts. Amen.