Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Gospel text for Sunday 2 February 2014

Luke 2:22-40        When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, the parents of Jesus brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
"Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."
And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-- and a sword will pierce your own soul too."
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Reflection          By every account Simeon and Anna expected the Abrahamic Covenant with God to be fulfilled, which is to say, they could imagine and looked forward to the time when all of Israel would be a holy nation and all that God promised would be fulfilled. So they conducted their lives in accord with the religious obligations set out in the Torah. They cultivated the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and worship. Throughout their lengthy lives they lived in relationship with God and when the Presence of Emmanuel, God with us was revealed, they recognized him. 

Today we look at Anna and Simeon’s lives and protest, “Yes, but this is the 21st century. I can’t, or don’t want, to live in a temple or a monastery. Not all of us are cut out for the religious life.”  If he were alive I imagine Brother Lawrence would reply, “Not so fast. By practicing the presence of God we can make our 21st century lives temples for God.” 

Born in 1614 Brother Lawrence was a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in Paris. He didn’t have the education to be a cleric so was assigned to the kitchen and repairing sandles. It was while doing these tedious tasks that Br. Lawrence developed his rule for “Practicing the Presence of God,” (also the name of his classic book.) He wrote,  "Men invent means and methods of coming at God's love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God's presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of (God)?" 

For Brother Lawrence the expectation that God is present in every moment of our lives is pivotal. When we do every task expecting God present every moment of our ordinary life has incomparable value. He wrote, "The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees before the Blessed Sacrament.
Anna and Simeon found their relationship with God in the Jerusalem temple. It was the symbolic focus of divine Presence, the place where heaven and earth mingled. Brother Lawrence expands the location of “the temple” to include all of life. When we approach all of life as “the temple” we are as righteous as Simeon and may well expect to experience the Presence of God with us. When we order our days with prayer, fasting and worship we too will receive the Wisdom of Anna, praise God and speak well of the One whom all are seeking.

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