Homily for the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple
Theme: FOLLOWING CHRIST THE LIGHT
By: Rev. Fr. Utazi Prince Marie Benignus
Homily for Tuesday February 2 2021
Malachi 3: 1-4;
Psalm 24: 7, 8, 9, 10;
Hebrews 2: 14-18;
Luke 2: 22-40
I pray for you: May you continue to be aware of the Light of Christ which shines upon you, and through you and through others out in the darkness of the world. AMEN
Jesus is the light of revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for God’s people. Today is *Consecrated Life Day,* when we pray for all consecrated vocations in the Church. Today, February 2, is a special day and an important day for the “RELIGIOUS”. It was in 2008 that I first experienced what February 2 is like, for the Religious. I was in Novitiate then, with Sons of the Two Hearts of Love in Ilorin Catholic Diocese, kwara State Nigeria. Our Novice master then was Very Rev. Fr. Jude Obiechena CMF. On this fateful day, all the Religious in the Catholic Diocese of Ilorin gathered at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Chaplaincy, of University of Ilorin. The Mass was presided over by Most Rev Ayo Maria Atoyebi OP of Ilorin Diocese, and Concelebrated by Very Rev.Frs. Jude Obiechena CMF and Dr Jude Mbukanma OP. What interested me most was that the Dominicans were wearing their habits and then the stole and chasuble, while the Clarentian has to put on the Alb before the stole and chasuble. Other things were the singing, the teaching by Fr Jude Mbukanma on Lection Divina and the brotherly and sisterly love expressed at the gathering. It was just a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.
Before I proceed with my homily, I wish to congratulate my Angels, who are making their FIRST RELIGIOUS PROFESSION TODAY, the Fidelian Sisters: Sr Virginia, Sr Mary Magdalene, Sr Petronila and Sr Mary Ann. May God continue to pour out his grace on you people, so that you will live a life consecrated to God worthily, with sisterly love and compassion for the people of God. AMEN.
The idea of light casting out the darkness and the darkness not being able to overcome the light is seen as a sign of Christ overcoming the power of evil and sin.
Today we once again focus on the Light which has come to shine in the darkness. Even as an Infant, Jesus is recognized as the source of healing and forgiving Light which will have a positive effect on individuals who are open to the Light. He will be the means of separating those individuals of the Light from those of darkness. This will cause pain for Him and for those who love Him, but in the end the Light will shine even brighter, and the darkness will not be able to overcome the Light.
Today the Church celebrates the *feast of the Presentation of the Lord* which occurs forty days after the birth of Jesus and is also known as Candlemas day, since the blessing and procession of candles is included in today’s liturgy. Before the revision of the General Roman Calendar this marked the end of the Christmas season. The feast was first observed in the Eastern Church as “The Encounter.” In the sixth century, it began to be observed in the West: in Rome with a more penitential character and in Gaul (France) with solemn blessings and processions of candles, popularly known as “Candlemas.” The Presentation of the Lord concludes the celebration of the Nativity and with the offerings of the Virgin Mother and the prophecy of Simeon, the events now point toward Easter.
According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is referred to as the “Purification of Mary.” This is known as a “Christmas feast” since it points back to the Solemnity of Christmas. Many Catholics practice the tradition of keeping out the Nativity creche or other Christmas decorations until this feast.
Today’s feast is the close of the infancy narratives for the liturgical year. Once again, we hear that Jesus was taken to the Temple forty days after His birth to be presented to God according to the Jewish law. There is much to reflect on in the readings for this feast.
In the First Reading from Malachi, we hear that the Lord God is sending a messenger to announce that God is coming to the temple. This messenger may be in the person of an angel, a prophet, a proclaimer of Good News. The messenger is to announce a cleansing and purifying of the people of God and the temple. This reading has been taken to refer in a minor way to John the Baptist and in a major way to Jesus. Both came to proclaim the Good News. Both called for metanoia. Metanoia means change of heart, purifying of lifestyles. Jesus is seen in the temple many times throughout the Gospels. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is brought to the temple to be presented to God according to the Jewish Law. In another passage in Luke’s Gospel, we hear that in His youth, Jesus remains in the temple listening and teaching while His mother and Joseph search for Him for three days. Jesus comes into the temple throughout His public ministry, one time turning over the tables of those who are making God’s house a den of thieves – thus cleansing and purifying the temple for the holy service of God.
Our Responsorial is the psalm speaking about the Lord, the Ruler of Glory, entering into the holy place. This psalm is tied to David’s bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the City of Jerusalem to the tent where the Ark would dwell. Yet it is also appropriate for this feast when we celebrate Jesus being brought into the temple for the presentation on this day, the fortieth day after His birth.
The reading from the Letter to the Hebrews emphasizes Jesus’ role as the new High Priest Who is both human and divine. He can fully identify with us because of His human nature, yet He is the ultimate High Priest because He is God Who offers the perfect sacrifice, through His suffering and death.
The Gospel gives us the account of Jesus being brought to the temple at the time of the presentation. First, we hear that Mary and Joseph follow the traditional custom of bringing the forty day old Infant to the temple. They show that even though they are entrusted with the Author of life and the Savior of the world, they are not above the law. Their sacrifice of two birds show that they were not of the wealthy class who would offer a lamb for sacrifice. Dear Sisters and Brothers, the readings present a lot of lessons to us. Jesus’ presentation signifies God’s entrance to His temple. God made man entered His temple, presenting Himself to those who were really searching for Him. The couple and their Baby are greeted by two holy persons who sense the importance of the Infant Who is being presented. Simeon, who had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not experience death until he had seen the Anointed of the Lord (the Messiah, the Christ), praises God and says he is now ready for death since he has seen “a revealing light for the Gentiles and the glory of God’s people, Israel.” Simeon goes on to say to Mary that the Baby she holds in her hands will be the downfall and rise of many in Israel and that Mary’s own life will experience hardships because of the Infant. The second holy person to encounter the Infant and to speak about Him is the prophetess Anna. She also gives thanks to God as she recognizes that the Baby will be the source of deliverance for God’s holy people. These two individuals had seen thousands upon thousands of couples and their infants being brought to the temple over the years. But, they were able to see the specialness of this Infant and His parents. Both Simeon and Anna were attuned to God’s presence in what some would call ordinary happenings in a way that others did not even have a clue.
Yes, based upon Simeon’s proclamation that Jesus is the revealing light to the Gentiles, since the eighth century, the church has blessed candles used in sacred worship on this day. That is why this feast is also called “Candlemas.” So what does all of this mean for us?
Today, I am challenged to be like Mary and Joseph who were conscious of God’s laws. Mary and Joseph respect the Mosaic Law by offering the sacrifice prescribed for the poor: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Also, I am challenged to be like Simeon and Anna. Not in the fact of hanging around the House of God all the time, even though it is not a bad practice to do so, but being able to see God’s hand at work in what most people would say are just ordinary events. God’s Light is still shining in and through people for the sake of others. My response should be to be open to the Light of God shining out of people whom I meet. I should also realize that God is present with me and that I must let God’s Light shine through me. The Light shone on Simeon and Anna, and they saw the Light and they pointed out the Light. I, too, must be aware of the Light of God and let the Light shine, let the Light shine, let the Light shine.
Simeon and Anna were two venerable elderly people dedicated to prayer and fasting and so their strong religious spirit rendered them able to recognize the Messiah. In this sense we can see in the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple an extension of the ‘Pro Orantibus Day’ (For those who pray) that is celebrated on the feast of the Presentation of Mary (21 November). On this day, the Church demonstrates its gratitude to all those in the community that dedicate themselves in a privileged way to prayer, to those who have a particular religious vocation to the contemplative life. In the figure of the venerable Simeon, Jesus’ presentation in the temple, also reminds us that prayer and contemplation are not just a waste of time or an obstacle to charity. On the contrary, time could not be better spent than in prayer as true Christian charity is a consequence of a solid interior life. Only those who pray and offer penance, like Simeon and Anna, are open to the breath of the Spirit. They know how to recognize the Lord in the circumstances in which He manifests Himself because they possess an ample interior vision, and they have learned how to love with the heart of the One whose very name is Charity.
*NOW TO THOSE WHO ARE RELIGIOUS MEN AND WOMEN*
Today, together with Simeon and Anna, we contemplate the Divine child, the Word made flesh, who is brought to the Temple: the Temple of our heart. This singular day in this particular year, finds us still more faithful, with a life completely given to God (VC, 2) responding with a total and exclusive dedication (VC, 17). Let there be today the fiat of our task of obedience to the Gospel, to the voice of the Church, to our rule of life. With joy let us reconfirm our purpose of sober and austere living in order to defeat the anxiety of possessing through the grace of giving and use the goods of the world for the cause of the Gospel and human promotion, *Preserving with love both chastity of body and purity of mind; living our lives with an undivided heart for the Glory of God and the salvation of mankind.*
Mary, the Virgin Mother, the Most Sacred Temple, accompanies us on this path. Above all, she helps us in the time of trial; she who was pierced by the sword of the Spirit and preserved in her heart that which she had contemplated. “By your disposition, one love joined the Son and the Mother, one pain welded them one will drove them: to give pleasure to you, the unique and supreme good” (Preface to the Mass of The Virgin Mary in the Presentation of Our Lord).
In fact, “The contemplative life begins here, to reach its fulfillment in the heavenly home; because the fire of love that here begins to burn, when it sees Him whom it loves, will burn more strongly with love for him. Therefore the contemplative life will not be taken away because, having less light from this present world, it will reach perfection” (Gregory the Great: Hom. in Ez II 2,9 in CCL 142,231).
“For this reason let us stir up the fervor of our souls, oh brothers, strengthen the faith in that in which we have believed and enkindle in ourselves a yearning towards the celestial realities. This love flames as though we were already on the pathway. No adversity will take us away from the joy of the intimate celebration, because if one wishes to arrive at the coveted goal there will be no impediment on the journey that will be enough to change your desire… Thus the spirit yearns, in fullness of desire, towards the celestial homeland” (Gregory the Great: Hom in Ev. 14,6 in PL 76, 1130C).
Therefore, each consecrated person, for the past 9 days, must have prepared himself or herself through meditation on the gift of the vocation to a total consecration to Christ, in an experience of sincere repentance for failings and of a renewed love for living a true rapport with God and neighbour. Now in the Eucharistic Celebration – with Christ, in Christ and through Christ – and guided by the Spirit, we want to offer to the Father our lives which have been renewed through faith, hope and charity.
*MEDITATION* When have I been aware of the presence of God in the ordinary people and experiences of my daily living? How have I pointed out the specialness of others due to the fact that God’s Light is shining through them? How can I let the Light of God shine through me and through others?
*PRAYER* Blessed are You, Lord God, source of Light. Through Your Goodness, You desire that all people come into Your Light where they will receive warmth, energy, healing, knowledge, and joy. Nevertheless, we have sometimes tried to stifle Your Light and we have chosen to stay in the darkness of doubt, cold, sickness, sadness, and sin. We ask that we may be more open to Your Light shining in the world of darkness. Not only have You sent Your Son to be the Light of the world, but also He, in turn, has enlightened others and sent them out to be lights in the darkness. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, open our eyes to the brightness of Your Light shining in and through others, and in and through us. Through Christ Our Lord. AMEN
*O DIVINE WORD WHO TOOK FLESH FOR HUMAN SAKE, REDEEM US IN OUR SITUATIONS*
©️ Rev. Fr. Utazi Prince Marie Benignus