Sunday 2 February 2020
The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple by Mary and Joseph
Introduction: We are all children of the light, children of the sun. A fine sunny day lifts everyone. In these dark days of winter, people are not at their best. Some people even suffer from seasonal depression. For old people living alone there are up to 18 long hours of darkness and loneliness, from 4 in the evening to 8 or 9 the following morning.
But today’s liturgy of light holds up candles of hope. The days are beginning to lengthen, and are eating into the darkness.
Simeon lived through dark days, but today he steps into the dawn of the Messianic age. Adam blew out the candle of Eden, Simeon holds up the re-lit light of God. May we too hold up that light for ourselves and for others.
As we blow out our candles, may they stay lighting in our hearts and in our lives, as we carry them into the draught of tomorrow.
It was an ordinary day in the Temple, mothers, who had delivered, came from all over the country with their babies. On this particular day, a husband and wife from the village of Nazareth, brought their baby boy. They entered the Temple through the gate reserved for the poor. Mary and Joseph made the offering of the poorer classes – two doves.
A second law stated that every first born male child belonged to God, like the first born of their flocks, and the first fruits of their fields. (Num. 18:15-16). So Mary and Joseph had to buy back their boy child by paying 5 shekels to the Temple. Doves were cheap enough, but 5 shekels was no small amount. It was the equivalent of two weeks work.
From the time Mary was pregnant, Joseph knew that this ceremony was coming, and no doubt, over the months, he had put some money aside – just as well, because since the birth of Jesus, a month earlier, with all the goings and comings, he had done very little carpentry work, and so, no income.
As Mary and Joseph entered the Temple, there was nothing that would distinguish them from other families, who were there for the same purpose, proud mothers, showing off their babies to one another.
But there was someone, who was there most days, and who was there when Mary and Joseph arrived with their baby boy. This man saw what others did not – I am referring to Simeon. He was an ordinary lay man, with no reference to being a priest. But like the shepherds out on the hills, he was closer to God than the powers that be in the Temple.
The story of Simeon reminds me of a story at home during my school days. One of the Sisters in the Convent School was telling class one about Jesus in the tabernacle every day without fail. She told them that they should drop in and say hallo, as they passed the Church on their way home from school. A few days later she decided to test their memory and asked, “who is in the Church every day?” A little girl shot up her hand. “Well Mary, who is it?” “Mr. Murphy” was the reply. No one laughed, because Mr. Murphy, a retired teacher, was indeed often found in the Church praying.
We all know people like Simeon, Anna, and Mr. Murphy, who have a strong faith, who give their days and lives to God and to prayer. Simeon and Anna recognised the moment of grace. However, their visits to the Temple were only the tip of the iceberg, in a life of sanctity, lived out in their homes every day of their lives. Saints are not made by a one day visit to a Temple or to a Church.
God is everywhere, and it would be wrong to lock him in to a building, to a Temple, or to a Church. Mary and Joseph visited the Temple to present their Son, and buy Him back. It took an hour, or may be two at most. But they lived out their lives, year in year out, in the home of Nazareth. The visit to the Temple was only a snap shot, like the brief flash of a camera in their lives. Christ himself visited the Temple many times, but he preferred the mountains and hills for prayer.
Mary found God among the pots and pans of her kitchen for over thirty years. Joseph and the boy Jesus met Him in a carpenter’s shed. We too can pray in the Church, but we don’t eat there, or sleep there, or live there. We too must find God in our homes, in our work places, out in the fields, and especially in the sacrament of the moment.
Jacob in the Book of Genesis, on his way back to Haran, for a wife from his father’s tribe, found God under the stars, out in the Negeb desert, far from shrines and houses of worship. Let me conclude with Jacob’s words in Gen. 28:12-16: “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it…. This is none other than the house of God, the gate of heaven.”
Every door is a door into God, and every gate in every field, is the gate of heaven, for those who have eyes to see, beyond the door, beyond the gate.
Simeon saw beyond the face of a child,
may we see God behind the face of every day. Amen.
– Rev Tim Carroll SMA