Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The Presentation, which is celebrated 40 days after Christmas, is not mentioned in the other Gospels. Only Luke narrates the story, most likely because his audience, the Gentile Christians, are not familiar with the Jewish rite of presentation and purification. In addition, the intent of Luke’s Gospel is to show that the promise made by God the Father to Israel, which is fulfilled in Jesus, also extends to the Gentiles.

In the Jewish tradition, a woman who gives birth to a son is “unclean” for forty days (Leviticus 12). The Law requires her to bring the appropriate offering (a lamb and a pigeon/dove for those who could afford it, or two pigeons/doves for those who could not), which the priest would sacrifice to bring about the purification. The idea of needing purification after childbirth may seem primitive, non-scientific – after all, the same taboo about bleeding during menstruation denies women equal opportunities in education and in life all over the developing world. Moreover, knowledge and science which denies faith passes over the opportunity to recognise the sacred which exists in the rhythms of our daily lives. The miracle of life in birth is a sign of holiness in a natural process.

Similarly, in our seemingly ordinary lives, do we recognise the extraordinary signs of God’s love?

Luke recognises Joseph and Mary as faithful and obedient Jews, who “when the day came for them to be purified in keeping with the Law of Moses” brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:22). There they present their first-born son to the Lord, who is consecrated as required by the Law of Moses (Exodus 13:2). Present in the Temple at this time are Simeon and Anna. Both are awaiting the restoration of God’s rule in Israel.

Simeon had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would see Christ the Lord, the Messiah, before he died. Upon seeing Jesus, the holy man immediately recognised Him as the promised Saviour. And as a measure of how good God is and how faithful He is to His word, Simeon not only laid his eyes on the Messiah as promised, but also held Him in his arms. Now with just a glimpse of God’s salvation embodied in Christ, Simeon could face his death with peace, proclaiming to God that “[He is] letting [His] servant go in peace as [He] promised” (Luke 2:29). Therefore with the light of Christ, there can be joy in the face of death, strength in the midst of trials, and hope in the depths of despair.

Anna, a prophetess, also recognised Jesus as the fulfilment of the promise of redemption and spoke about him to all. Both man and woman, Simeon and Anna, bear witness to the Saviour – in the same way, all of us, men and women alike, are called to faith, to believe in the salvation through Christ our Lord.

As Simeon and Anna lived upright and devout lives, and in Anna’s case, a life of prayer and fasting in the Temple, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. The result, they were able to identify Jesus as the Redeemer who had been promised the moment they laid their eyes on him, fulfilling the prophecy of the prophet Malachi in the first reading which says “the Lord whom you seek will come to his Temple” (Malachi 3:1).

Simeon described Jesus as “a light of revelation for the gentiles and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2:32). We are called to recognise Jesus as our Lord and God. Do we see Our Lord, Jesus in the poor, the homeless, the elderly (Matthew 25:40)? Do we recognise the presence of Jesus in the Eucharistic Celebration, and participate fully in body, mind and spirit? Having recognised Jesus, do we then respond in faith as Thomas did – crying out to Him as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28)?

May the Holy Spirit guide you, just as He guided Simeon and Anna, to recognise the presence of Jesus in your life, and discern the signs of God’s love for you. In the depths of your despair, God is longing to give you a sign – may you reach out and take it.

With love and peace,

Philip & Faith

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