Readings: Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40
St. Luke’s Gospel describes no Magi to whom the infant Christ is manifested but he does narrate today’s Presentation of that Infant in the Temple. Everyone in this scene is Jewish and through them this appearance announces Christ to the world. Cognizant of the Jewish Prophets, especially Isaiah, Luke knows it is the calling of the Chosen People to be a beacon to all the nations, and the Temple, in some sense, to be the goal of all peoples. This is, if you will, Luke’s Epiphany story.
So why do we repeat celebrating this manifestation again? Perhaps when we celebrate the Feast tells us as much as the Gospel about this feast. There was a time when this Gospel was read eight days after Christmas, marking the circumcision of Jesus eight days after his birth. But today is the fortieth day after Christmas; the feast is not following the chronology of events. Recall, however, the darkness of the winter solstice when we celebrated Christmas, while today the sun rises notably earlier and sets so much later. Today Simeon describes Jesus as a light of revelation to the Gentiles. Today we celebrate a season when nature grows bright.
A lovely image, isn’t it? But is it an image of the world we live in? When I read today’s news, do I necessarily feel that Christ is now a brighter presence?
On the other hand, the harmony of the seasons with the liturgy makes me aware of the natural world. I read a few decades ago that, were any of our cities abandoned, in just fifteen years nature could break it down, overgrow it and obliterate it. Our world of ideologies and conventions, of buildings and transactions is not the only world we belong to.
When I consider today’s Gospel, what do I see? Not a brilliant politician but a speechless child who must be carried by his mother and who cannot amend a single word said about him. And yet in him, God takes a stand among us.
This is no God above the heavens, infinitely distant from my world but a God infinitesimally small; small enough to course through this child’s veins, to hide in his DNA, to be contained between the neutrons and protons and electrons that compose him. This is a God speaking between the lines of human speech, latent in the yet unspoken words, flexible enough to enter any human experience, powerlessness enough to wait within my potential. This is a God who can infiltrate my mixed-motives and grace my will with conversion.
In a world of my narrow imaginings, lacking self-respect, in a world of contrary voices and self-destructive habits, I need this God who, as my foundation, works as a leaven from within. In a world of abused and tortured lives, of trashed natural resources and poisoned air, this is the God I need to recover, if there is to be life. This is the inner light who alone can give me sight, the silence who can heal my all too vocal doubts, the patient suffering who can generate persevering hope.