This morning here in Houston, as we opened the Symposium marking the first anniversary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington D.C., noted that while he was watching the news this morning, the commentator was speaking of Groundhog day, but on the Church’s calendar it was also known as “Candlemas Day”, marking the time in history when candles were blessed and lit on this day to lighten the winter months. This day is liturgically known as the “Presentation of the Lord”, and is forty days after the celebration of the birth of Christ. On this day, the Christ child was taken to the temple 40 days after birth, as prescribed in Jewish law. This day, once again, we have a “echo” of the Nativity, as both Anna and Simeon see the Christ child – the light of the world.
To accompany this day,I am posting an early morning picture of a chapel in St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, Texas, followed by a thoughtful and well written reflection on this day by Fr. Tim Peters, parochial vicar of the Mission Basilica of San Juan Capistrano. Fr. Tim has written before for this blog, and he has an S.T.L. (Licentiate) in Biblical Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Christ be our Light!
The Presentation of the Lord and the New Evangelization
February 2, 2013
By Fr. Tim Peters
Mission Basilica, San Juan Capistrano
A light to all nations!!!
On one pilgrimage to Israel I sat down to rest near the Western Wall and looked up only to see a small sign that proclaimed the Temple Mount as the dwelling place of God. It was the place where God dwelled in the midst of His people and accordingly they would become a light for the other nations of the world (Is 60:1-2).
Today we celebrate the presentation of Christ in the Temple. The Savior of the world was brought to the Temple for his presentation. According to Mosaic Law all mothers were required to present their first-born children to the Lord (Ex 13: 2,12). However, this particular presentation was different from all the rest because Mary carried the world’s hope and salvation in her arms. One can find here a beautiful irony, in the sense that Jesus will become the Temple in whom we must all dwell, but first He is brought by His own mother to the temple where His people worshiped.
Jesus is the Light of the world and no one seemed to notice. In His presentation it is only two faithful and righteous lay people (Simeon and Anna) who have waited for His coming and recognized His true identity with the help of the Holy Spirit. Simeon notes the all-important fact that this child will become “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.” It is this Light that we must share with all nations and peoples. When we participate in the work of evangelization then we more fully understand the significance of this feast.
How can we personally prepare to bring Christ as a light to all peoples and nations? Like Simeon and Anna, we must learn how to truly recognize His presence and activity in our own lives. Before evangelizing we ourselves must be fully evangelized. As the saying goes, “You can’t give what you do not have.” A sincere sense of conversion or a personal conversion on our own part is a necessary element. We need to rediscover Jesus’ love and with enduring hope trust that God will help us change anything in our own lives which impedes us from serving Him more fully. True conversion gives us confidence to change, but also confidence to share the gospel! In this way evangelization becomes a gift that we can share with others. The very light that we receive, must be shared! When we see this truth then we will understand the imperative nature of Jesus’ mission. Pope Paul the VI speaks about this great exchange between receiving and sharing the gospel:
Finally, the person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize others. Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization: it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn (Evangelii Nuntiandi,24).
The Church has an irrevocable mission and therefore must bring the gospel to all people in word and deed. No person, government or political agency can change or alter this mission! As Catholics we must understand the importance of this mission and also understand that each one of us is united with the Church in Her mission: to bring the light of Christ to all nations/peoples (in Latin- ad gentes). Blessed John Paul II elaborates:
This mission is one and undivided, having one origin and one final purpose; but within it, there are different tasks and kinds of activity. First, there is the missionary activity which we call mission ad gentes, in reference to the opening words of the Council’s decree on this subject. This is one of the Church’s fundamental activities: it is essential and never-ending. The Church, in fact, “cannot withdraw from her permanent mission of bringing the Gospel to the multitudes the millions and millions of men and women-who as yet do not know Christ the Redeemer of humanity. In a specific way this is the missionary work which Jesus entrusted and still entrusts each day to his Church.”50(Redemtoris Missio 31)
Simeon and Anna rejoiced when they saw Christ on the day of His presentation. When we participate in the New Evangelization we also will rejoice with them, knowing that this same light is being manifested and shared with all nations