Jesus came not to help Angels but rather humanity. And, I can assure you, my dears, that we are not angels, but, rather flesh and blood … children of Abraham and Sarah, descendents of David and heirs to the gifts God has ready for all who seek the greater good.
As in the first reading, we are told that God’s Sovereign One WILL come. In the Gospel we see that the first born of Mary enters the public eye as ‘He who shall make atonement for the sins of the people’ Yes, His presence will give us the vision we as humans need to be ‘at one’ with all humanity. But, in order to do this, Jesus had to be both human and divine ‘first born’ witness to God’s presence in each of us.
The Presentation in the Temple, which we celebrate today, is a turning point in history shared with first century Christians to emphasize Jesus humanity AND his divinity. Jesus was the first flesh and blood example of how we can become aware of whom we are as God’s children. Up till this moment in Matthew and Luke’s infancy narratives, Jesus – while fully human – had not been portrayed as being also divine. It is at this moment in the Gospels when Jesus divinity is first revealed. It is also at this moment when the first century church must begin to realize what that means to their community, their lives and the lives of generations to come.
Here we sit over 2,000 years later on Candlemas Day at the end of yet another Christmas season; on Ground Hogs day – hoping for an end to this horrific winter and a glimpse at Ponxsutaney Phil and his shadow (to no avail); on super Bowl Sunday as we get ready to pay homage to our country’s 21st century “other religion”. Here we are just like Simeon and Anna – ordinary people living ordinary lives the same hopes, fears and considerations of every generation.
As we watch the scene in our minds eye – there stand Mary and Joseph with their arms around the baby Jesus, perhaps a bit frightened … a bit worried that they be accepted … that their first born, like all other first born in the community, be accepted and not marginalized because of the circumstances of his unusual birth. Mary stood there, perhaps trembling that she be purified and not rejected. Both Mary and Joseph hoping that the high priest see their first born son as perfect in every way and, in fact God’s gift to the world. (And what Jewish parent or any parent, for that matter, doesn’t see their first born as God’s perfect gift?) When this little family is greeted with confirmation that YES this is the ONE, the one whose arrival has been told, The Sovereign, Emmanuel, God with us what were they feeling?
Imagine that scene
Tears of joy rolling down the face of Simeon as he takes this child in his arms and lifts him up to heaven. Think about the joy that must be present in the hearts of both Anna and Simeon who have waited for this day all their lives, have not given up hope and now know that God has granted their wish. Yet this joy is bitter sweet for Mary as she hears the prophesy that a sword will pierce her heart. (Perhaps somewhere deep inside she already knows her fate and the fate of the world as the mother of the Messiah.)
What a mixed bag of emotions must wash over this couple as they take Jesus back into their keeping, knowing the weight of generations rests in their hands … knowing that this child will be rejected and reviled by the world because of his birthright.
Yet He will be the one who brings a people out of the darkness of fear and trembling into the light of the knowledge that we are all God’s children and as such we will be forged in the furnace of the until we sine like Silver and Gold.
Even Anna – the octogenarian who never gave up hope and trusted that God would reveal to her a treasure beyond all treasures – even she knew that in this moment all prophesies were revealed. She knew that Salvation WAS and IS at hand and Jesus would lead the way from death to life through history … through time and place to the present moment in which the Light of the World is revealed in ALL who present themselves humbly and in earnest to the Divine Source as gift to God.
As you take these blessed candles home today, put them in a place of reverence so that each time you light them you can reflect on Jesus presentation as an example of our presentation, our gift to the Divine Source our Mother/Father God.
Be mindful that as we live our lives in our moment of time – we like Anna and Simeon will not see death without hope of new life, without the Wisdom that God’s Word brought to the World, without knowing that true freedom can only be found by going within and discovering the Light and the fire of our Spirits that can NOT die.
If course, Jesus was fully human – he had to be - to lead the way for us to follow. Yes He is fully divine, the shining example of who we, too, are – God’s children. This life is our playground. In it we grow in strength and become filled with wisdom every step of the way, if we allow God’s Word to penetrate our being. Until at last we say like Simeon, “Now, O God, you can dismiss your servant in peace because my eyes have seen my own salvation through Him … with Him and in Him.