2 February 2009. Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord
Mal 3, 1-4; Psalm 24; Heb 2, 14-18; Luke 2, 22-40
Mary and Joseph were devout Jews, fulfilling the prescriptions of presenting or offering the first-born to the Lord, because the first-born sons ‘belong’ to the Lord. Remember, the Lord saved and spared the first borns of the Israelites, when the first-borns of the Egyptians died at the Passover (Exodus 13, 15). There is another: the ritual purification of the mother forty days after giving birth (Lev 12, 1-8) where she was to offer a lamb and a pigeon or turtledoves. But since Mary and Joseph were poor, they were allowed to offer two pigeons instead. Biblical commentators said that Luke confused these two rituals and placed them into one story.
In the longer form of the Gospel, we encounter two individuals: Simeon and Anna. So for our reflection today, we take our cue from them who have been open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to recognize Jesus. You see, how can Anna and Simeon recognize Jesus as the Anointed One of Israel among all other babies being presented in the temple? What prepared their hearts to recognize Jesus? I have two points.
First, desire. Their desire was clear: they wanted to see God’s salvation. Simeon and Anna were old. They waited in the Temple for this day. There were humble and faithful Israelites waiting in the temple for the revelation of God’s salvation. They were just, pious and devout. And after years and years of waiting, their desires had been purified. I would not be surprised if they had doubted whether they would be able to see the fulfillment of God’s promise in their lifetime. But the never lost hope. And as Simeon said, he may die in peace after seeing Jesus.
In our lives, we sometimes find ourselves directionless because our desires are unclear. Desires provide the inspiration, meaning and direction in our lives. We can see that in many of our reality talent searches: they know what they want, and so they prepared themselves for that very day --- even if they were not sure if that day would come, like the contestants of American Idol or Pinoy Dream Academy.
Second, unceasing prayer. Simeon and Anna have been praying in the temple faithfully. In their prayers, their hearts have been attuned to the heart of God, that they acquire a certain way of seeing. With the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, their eyes have been opened to recognize Jesus, among all other first-borns in the temple that day.
Constancy forms our hearts: the way lovers who have spent years together recognize each other through a whiff of perfume, the peculiar sound of their voice, even what they need --- without their beloved articulating them. They said, with one look, they know if something is troubling them. So constant prayer makes our hearts receptive to God.
We can find God in everything. We need new eyes and hearts. We can attune our senses to find God in the world today if our desire is clear and our hearts have been attuned to God through unceasing prayer.