FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD ON FEBRUARY 2, 2020 (R. 1: Malachi 3: 1-4; Psalm 24: 7, 8, 9, 10; R. 2: Hebrews 2:14-18; Gospel: Luke 2:22-40)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE!
Today is the feast of the Presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem by his mother, Mary, and his foster father, Joseph. This feast comes up every 2nd of February, that is, forty days after Christmas. It concludes the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord. The offering made by Mary and the prophecy by Simeon now point toward Easter. So, if by tomorrow you still have your Christmas decorations, you have the option to either bring them down or give them another name.
This day is also called Candlemas day because of the procession we have with candles at the beginning of this Mass. The procession at the beginning of the Mass today commemorates the Lord’s entry into the Temple of Jerusalem. Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus to the Temple in obedience to the Law. This practice dates back to the time of the Exodus. As Pharaoh refused to set the Israelites free, God sent the tenth plague, which was the killing of the first-born male children of human beings and animals. But the first-born sons of the Israelites were spared, so they belong to God, who spared them (cf. Exodus 13:1ff). Because they were specially set apart, each first-born son became the priest of his family and performed the priestly duties on behalf of his family. Later on, God chose the tribe of Levi to replace the first-born sons in the performance of priestly duties (cf. Numbers 8:13-18). When the tribe of Levi took over the priestly duties, the Israelites were required to redeem their firstborn from the Lord’s service by an offering (Leviticus 27:6; Numbers 3: 47). But Mary did not pay the recommended five shekels to redeem Jesus from the Temple service because Jesus is the eternal and perfect priest, who takes over the priestly duties from the Levites. In the Levitical Priesthood, the priest was different from the victim to be sacrificed, but in Jesus, he is both the priest and the victim to be sacrificed, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Simeon prophesied when he saw the infant, Jesus, “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child will be a light to the Gentiles. The candles we carried into the Church at the beginning of the Mass signify Christ, who is the light to the Nations. The three parts of the candle point to Christ in different ways. The wax stands for the body and blood of Christ; the wick stands for the soul of Christ, while the fire stands for the divinity of Christ. The light of Christ shines to dispel all darkness and to illumine our way. For the candle to give us light, it goes through the pain of the melting of the wax.
Similarly, the light that Christ brings to us is paid for by his blood. To nourish us as our eternal food, he had to die on the cross. During the Communion Rite at Mass, we sing or recite, “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us…grant us peace.” At the same time, the priest breaks the consecrated host to signify the fact that the Lamb of God we are about to eat was broken to heal us, he died that we may live, he was struck that we may have peace with God and with one another. He is the light of the world, and he has also passed on the responsibility to us to be the light of the world. The candle cannot give light without melting its wax; the Lamb cannot be our food without dying. We cannot be the light of the world without paying for it. Today, Mary presents her only Son, the Light of the world in the Temple, and Simeon told her that she would pay for it, he said to her “…and you yourself a sword will pierce…”
As we celebrate the Presentation of the Lord, we ask ourselves, “What have I brought to present to the Lord, and what price am I paying to be the light of the world?” Today is observed as World Day of Consecrated Life. We honor the witness of those men and women who have chosen to follow Christ by practicing the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience. We thank and pray for the religious who have said “No” to the world to say, “Yes” to God. They need our constant prayers and support as they melt their wax to give light to the world.
What about you, what wax are you melting to give light to the world? As a spouse, how much of your pride are you melting to keep your family in peace? As a child, how much legitimate pleasure are you sacrificing for the benefit of other members of your family? As a child of God, do I forgive those who hurt me even when they fail to apologize? As a Catholic, do I give my time, treasure and talent to the Church even when it hurts? Do I come to Mass even when it is Super Bowl Sunday?
To be the light of the world is to let your wax melt, and it hurts. But St. Theresa of Calcutta would say, “I have found the paradox that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” May the light of Christ continue to overcome all the forces of darkness around us until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.