Jesus the Light of the World! The Presentation of The Lord. (Candlemas). ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1: MAL 3:1-4

Responsorial Psalm: PS 24:7, 8, 9, 10

Reading 2: HEB 2:14-18

Gospel:  LK 2:22-40 or LK 2:22-32

Today, the church celebrates The Presentation of The Lord. This feast is also known as Candlemas, and this always falls on February 2nd:  40 days after Christmas.

Let us first look at what we are told in the Holy Gospel today in LK 2:22-40 (NABRE):

The Presentation in the Temple. 22 When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,

23 just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” 24 and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. 27 He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, 28 he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

29 “Now, Master, you may let your servant go

in peace, according to your word,

30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,

31     which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,

32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and glory for your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; 34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted 35 (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” 36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshipped night and day with fasting and prayer. 38 And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

The Return to Nazareth. 39 When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

Today is a day of light. Jesus is the saving light of our often dark world of shadows. Shadow and light are the reality of our earthly lives and of our materialistic world. I feel sure we could all tell a story to some extent, of what it was like to live in the shadowy places of life, some with experience of it more than others. Sometimes we go there by our own choice or by our own actions, but at other times, it may be as a result of someone else’s actions or  through the circumstances of life.

Sometimes we choose to hide ourselves away in the darkness avoiding the light because of our feelings of shame or guilt. We do not want to admit the truth of our lives to ourselves and we do not want others to see that truth about us – our thoughts,  the things we have done, or the things we have left undone. The shadows, we tell ourselves, will cover and hide us. Other times we live in the dark night of fear not knowing what will come next or how we will handle it. There is the sense of powerlessness and life seems out of control. There are those times when the darkness and shadow of sorrow and grief sucks out the life and the light of our world and we seem unable to escape the darkness at that moment. Sometimes we may experience the darkness of ignorance and of confusion. We may be blind to our own identity, lost on the path of our life, wandering seemingly without meaning or direction.

Even when we choose to be in the shadowy places of life, they are always uncomfortable to live in. That discomfort is because of the eternal light of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, shining in the darkness. No matter how large the shadows or how dark the night may seem to be, the light of Jesus is still present and can never be extinguished. This is symbolized today  in the candlelight procession of the feast of Candlemas which is held by some churches. That little flickering flame of the candles that are carried are the reminder that Christ – “a light for revelation” – is with you, me, and each of us! When we extinguish those candles the light did not and will not go away. It remains within us and it always has been and always will be. But we must begin to see this light with different eyes.

Sacred Tradition says that Simeon was 270 years old when he met Jesus in the temple and that he was blind. Yet Simeon himself declares to God, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” We could debate about the factual accuracy of Tradition and Scripture. Could Simeon really have been that old? Was he really blind and, if so, how did he see? Such debate and questions will surely miss the truth held before us in both the Scriptures and the Tradition. Yes, Simeon was blind. Yes, Simeon saw salvation. But he did not see with physical eyes. He saw with the eyes of his heart. Simeon experienced an inner seeing. He saw Jesus as the light of Salvation for the world that he is.

That Light of Jesus is revelatory.  It reveals to us mercy and forgiveness in the worldly dark shadows of guilt and shame,  it is the light of presence and courage in the night of fear, of compassion and hope in the darkness of sorrow and loss, a way forward in the blindness of our ignorance and confusion, and is eternal life in the darkness of death. The flame of God’s love consumes the darkness,  it fills us! It frees us to go in peace just as God promised. We have seen salvation and Simeon’s song now becomes our song.

Let us pray:

God, our Father, hear our prayer

and let the radiance of your love

scatter the gloom of our hearts and of our lives.

The light of heaven’s love has restored us to life –

free us from the desires that belong to darkness.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. AMEN

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