Mal 3: 1-4; Heb 2: 14-18; Lk 2: 22-40
(God Fulfills his promise always)
An elderly woman in frail health was speaking with her doctor and expressing her hope that she would have the strength to live just a few more months so that she could celebrate the birth of her first grandchild. Sure enough, the day came and the woman was present and well enough to hold the little child in her arms. When the woman went back to her doctor, he suggested that it would be important to set a new goal so that she had something to look forward to, something to “keep her going”. “Well”, the woman pondered, “my son did just buy me a new refrigerator with a 10 year warranty.”
Today’s feast commemorates the presentation of the Infant Jesus by Joseph and Mary to God in His Temple in Jerusalem. This reminds us that the Christmas stories about Jesus in Luke come to an end today forty days after Christmas with the celebration of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child to God in the Temple.
An ancient tradition says that a child is never given to parents by God, only lent to them. This tradition helps us appreciate better the spirit of God’s instruction to Moses: “Dedicate all the first-born males to me” (Ex 13:2). Jews carried out God’s instruction with a rite called presentation. While Jesus was at the Temple for this rite, we are introduced in today’s Gospel to a couple of characters who have been waiting for a long time for a promise to be fulfilled. When they see the Child, Anna and Simeon announce to everyone they see that He is the fulfillment of God’s promise to humanity.
God promised at the birth of Christ that men of goodwill shall have peace and that those who live their lives according to his holy will, shall receive salvation in Christ. God will never go back on his promises. His promises are virtually obligations that he imposes on himself. He never made a promise that was too good to be true. For example, God made a promise to Israel that “The Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his temple and who will be able to resist the day of his coming?” (Mal 3:1).
Simeon and Anna waited long years for fulfilment of that promise and their waiting was not in vain. In today’s feast of the Presentation we recall how Mary and Joseph came into the temple carrying God in the shape of a helpless child to be ‘presented in the temple’ and how Simeon taking the child in his arms blessed God saying, “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised, because my eyes have seen thy salvation” (Lk 2:29-30).
During those years of waiting, how often Simeon and Anna must have been tempted to think that things would never change and to despair that God’s promises would never come true! But they never yielded to that kind of temptation. We too like Simeon and Anna wait for the fulfilment of the promises God made at the birth of his Son. God will choose his own time to make his promise come true in our lives. We should wait patiently for their fulfilment.
Our waiting period may be arduous, even hazardous, as one feels when climbing a mountain. We might feel even crying out like the Psalmist: “Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place?” (Ps 24:3). And yet, we can’t afford to give up our waiting. We do not know why God should make us wait so long for the light of Christ to shine on us. But this much we know: the Almighty does nothing without reason, though our frail human mind cannot explain the reason.
God is at work in the world in ways far beyond our power to comprehend. Hence we are not taking any risks when we step out on the promise of God. May the good Lord fill us with deep faith so that we can daily live a joyful Christian life on the wings of his promises.