Entering into Christ’s Consecration, Feast of the Presentation, February 2, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
February 2, 2015
Mal 3:1-4, Ps 24, Heb 2:14-18, Lk 2:22-40

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:

 

The following points were attempted in the homily:

  • This year’s Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple is particularly special. Since 1997, the Church has observed on this feast the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. This year this observance takes on special meaning because it is taking place within the first Year for Consecrated Life in Church history. St. John Paul II decided to have this world day of prayer for religious men and women, for consecrated hermits, virgins and widows, for members of secular institutes and societies of apostolic life and other forms of living publicly by the evangelical counsels on the Feast of the Lord’s Presentation because, he said, “the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent icon of the total offering of one’s life,” something we see in those who lived in the consecrated state. So what I’d like to do today is to see four things we can learn from today’s feast to provide nourishment on our understanding not only on the consecrated life but on the consecrated nature of our whole Christian life through baptism.
  • The first thing we can ponder is the nature of consecration. St. Luke quotes the Mosaic Law in today’s Gospel, saying, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord.” To be consecrated means to be totally given to the Lord, to belong to God, to transfer the title of ownership of one’s life over to God, to be cut off (sacer) from worldly things to be with (con) God. Jesus is the supreme consecrated one. He would say during the Last Supper that he consecrates himself for us so that we might be consecrated in truth. Consecrated men and women live out this sense of total belonging to God and show us all a path to help us to remember that through our baptismal presentation in the Lord’s temple, we, too, are the Lord’s and our whole existence is meant to develop within the sense of stewardship — not ownership — for the gift of our life.
  • The second aspect of today’s feast on which we can meditate is the whole meaning of light. The Presentation is often called Candlemas. We began Mass today with a procession with lit and blessed candles. This is a quasi-sacramental manifestation of what Simeon says about the 40-day old baby Jesus in today’s Gospel, that he is a “light of revelation to the Gentiles.” We receive that light from him and are meant to burn with that light. On the day of our baptismal consecration, our Godfathers went to the Paschal (Easter) Candle and lit from it our baptismal candle, the priest instructed us to receive the Light of Christ, and our parents and godparents were commanded to help us to keep that flame of faith alive in our hearts so that when Christ comes we may go out to meet him with all the saints in his heavenly kingdom. That’s an image of Jesus’ parable about the five wise bridesmaids who had plenty of oil in their lamp to keep their flame ignited for the Bridegroom’s return. Consecrated men and women burn with this light of love, an expectant light for God and a charitable light of good deeds for their neighbors for whom Christ burns with love. They’re a conscious reminder to us how we’re supposed to fill the world with Christ’s light, the bright light of his truth, the warm flame of his love.
  • The third characteristic of the Feast of the Presentation is what we can glimpse about the evangelical counsels that distinguished the consecrated life in this great mystery in the temple. We see poverty in Mary’s and Joseph’s presenting a pair of pigeons. Normally if a family were of means, it would redeem a newborn male with a lamb, but Joseph and Mary were too poor to purchase a Lamb with which to “buy back” the infant Lamb of God. We also clearly see featured Joseph’s and Mary’s holy obedience. Three times St. Luke describes it, that they were dutifully and lovingly obeying what “is written in the law of the Lord,” doing so “in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord,” and seeking to “fulfill all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord.” We also see a beautiful witness of chastity in the example of Anna who, since she was widowed very early in life, had spent the next five or six decades — until we meet her at 84 — never leaving the temple but worshipping God day and night with fasting and prayer. After the death of her husband, God became her great love, and she served him more lovingly and faithfully than any wife a man. Consecrated men and women live by these counsels, showing the world what true wealth, true freedom and true love are all about, and encouraging us all, no matter our state of life, to imitate Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna.
  • The last aspect of the consecrated life we can see depicted in the Gospel is Simeon’s prophecy about Jesus that he was “destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted … so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Jesus would be that sign of contradiction that would be a cause of ruin or resurrection for many, for the true manifestation of what was in their hearts. Even though Jesus came as Light, many preferred darkness; even though he came as Savior, many didn’t wish to be rescued; even though he came as the refulgence of God’s glory, many preferred their own glory. And the great sign of Jesus’ contradiction is the Cross, where the vertical bar of divine worship contradicts the horizontal bar of worldliness. Consecrated men and women likewise experience this contradiction. Their poverty contradicts the materialism of the present age; their chastity the world’s sexual hedonism; their obedience, the world’s sense of radical autonomy; their community life, the world’s individualism; their eschatological existence, the world’s living for the here and now; their charity, the world’s obsession with “me” and putting ourselves first. They help bring many to experience Jesus’ resurrection but they, like Jesus, are a cause of ruin for many who refuse to align their lives to Jesus’ own contradiction of worldliness. Every Christian is meant to be a contradiction of the things of the world in a similar way, to proclaim something radically different from the world’s values, namely Christ’s values.
  • Today as we come to this temple to present ourselves to God on the Feast of the Presentation, we consecrate ourselves anew to him together with the Lord’s own consecration; we ask him to fill us with his holy light as we prepare to receive him in Holy Communion, we ask him to help us always to find in him in the Eucharist our treasure, our liberating truth, our great love, and the help we need to proclaim his Gospel in and out of season, especially in those areas in which it calls the world to conversion. The same Jesus whom Simeon held in us arms we’re about to receive within. As we do, we pray for all our consecrated brothers and sisters and we ask for the grace to imitate them according to our state of life, so that like them we may proclaim to the world that we belong to God, are children of life, and choose to make his own countercultural lifestyle the way and reason of our life!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 MAL 3:1-4

Thus says the Lord God:
Lo, I am sending my messenger
to prepare the way before me;
And suddenly there will come to the temple
the LORD whom you seek,
And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.
Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
But who will endure the day of his coming?
And who can stand when he appears?
For he is like the refiner’s fire,
or like the fuller’s lye.
He will sit refining and purifying silver,
and he will purify the sons of Levi,
Refining them like gold or like silver
that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.
Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem
will please the LORD,
as in the days of old, as in years gone by.

Responsorial Psalm PS 24:7, 8, 9, 10

R. (8) Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD of hosts; he is the king of glory.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Reading 2 HEB 2:14-18

Since the children share in blood and flesh,
Jesus likewise shared in them,
that through death he might destroy the one
who has the power of death, that is, the Devil,
and free those who through fear of death
had been subject to slavery all their life.
Surely he did not help angels
but rather the descendants of Abraham;
therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters
in every way,
that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God
to expiate the sins of the people.
Because he himself was tested through what he suffered,
he is able to help those who are being tested.

Alleluia LK 2:32

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A light of revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 2:22-40

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
—and you yourself a sword will pierce—
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.