By Anne Louise Mahoney, Editor
The Bible is short on details when it comes to Jesus’ early life. In fact, Luke’s gospel covers Jesus’ first 12 years in a mere 34 verses! But in between his birth and his being lost and found at age 12 is another profound moment: the presentation of Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem when he was 40 days old. (This feast, which is also known as Candlemas, is celebrated 40 days after Christmas.)
This was a normal ritual for Jewish families: women were seen as ritually unclean until 40 days after childbirth, and came to the temple for purification. But for Mary and Joseph, this occasion was anything but ordinary. While they are there, two elders – Simeon and Anna – draw near, recognizing the infant Jesus as the Messiah and praising God.
Pope Francis speaks of this event as one of encounter: the first encounter of Jesus and his people, as represented by Simeon and Anna, who have been waiting their whole lives for this moment. For Mary and Joseph, it’s yet another encounter with an incomprehensible reality about their son: they “were amazed at what was being said about him” (Luke 2:33). The moment holds great promise and hope, but there are clouds on the horizon: as Simeon says, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel … and a sword will pierce your own soul too” (vv. 34-35).
Spend some time reading this rich passage from Luke, and picture yourself in the scene. What do you see, hear, feel? Think of times when you have encountered Jesus – in the Eucharist, at work or play, in prayer, in nature, and in people of all faiths or no faith. Take a moment to pray for our world, which so desperately needs renewed hope for the future.
… my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples …