Last Sunday we had a wonderful celebration of Mass to celebrate the beginning of the catechetical year. My thanks to all those who attended. It all went very smoothly, and my thanks in particular go to our catechists, who did so much to ensure that all went well. On Sunday, 11th February, we will also celebrate the baptism of some of our babies and children. Each of these acts are of the greatest significance in our life of faith. It is a time when parents and families present their children to God. It is an offering of each life to God, asking for the gift of ever-growing faith, hope and love.
On Friday we also celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. This marks the day when Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus up to Jerusalem, in order that Jesus be presented and offered to God, according to Jewish religious tradition. After the event took place, two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, were given the gift of recognising that this little baby, was destined to be the Redeemer of the world. We should take great hope from this wonderful feast, and recognise that, after the example of Jesus, each of us is dedicated to God, and called to serve Him in our daily lives. I would like to offer, for your reflection, some words from Pope Francis, which he preached at the Feast of the Presentation last year:
“Today’s liturgy tells us that in that rite, the Lord, forty days after his birth, “outwardly was fulfilling the Law, but in reality, he was coming to meet his believing people. This encounter of God with his people brings joy and renews hope.
Simeon’s canticle is the hymn of the believer, who at the end of his days can exclaim: “It is true, hope in God never disappoints” (cf. Rm 5:5). God never deceives us. Simeon and Anna, in their old age, were capable of a new fruitfulness, and they testify to this in song. Life is worth living in hope, because the Lord keeps his promise. Jesus himself will later explain this promise in the synagogue of Nazareth: the sick, prisoners, those who are alone, the poor, the elderly and sinners, all are invited to take up this same hymn of hope. Jesus is with them, Jesus is with us (cf. Lk 4:18-19).
We have inherited this hymn of hope from our elders. They made us part of this process. In their faces, in their lives, in their daily sacrifice we were able to see how this praise was embodied. We are heirs to the dreams of our elders, heirs to the hope that did not disappoint our founding mothers and fathers, our older brothers and sisters. We are heirs to those who have gone before us and had the courage to dream. Like them, we too want to sing, “God does not deceive; hope in him does not disappoint”. God comes to meet his people. And we want to sing by taking up the prophecy of Joel and making it our own: “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (2:28).
We do well to take up the dreams of our elders, so that we can prophesy in our day and once more encounter what originally set our hearts afire. Dreams and prophecies together. The remembrance of how our elders, our fathers and mothers, dreamed, and the courage prophetically to carry on those dreams.
Let us go back to the Gospel passage and once more contemplate that scene. Surely, the song of Simeon and Anna was not the fruit of self-absorption or an analysis and review of their personal situation. It did not ring out because they were caught up in themselves and were worried that something bad might happen to them. Their song was born of hope, the hope that sustained them in their old age. That hope was rewarded when they encountered Jesus. When Mary let Simeon take the Son of the Promise into his arms, the old man began to sing of his dreams. Whenever she puts Jesus in the midst of his people, they encounter joy. For this alone will bring back our joy and hope, this alone will save us from living in a survival mentality. Only this will make our lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive: putting Jesus where he belongs, in the midst of his people.
Let us accompany Jesus as he goes forth to meet his people, to be in the midst of his people. Let us go forth, not with the complaining or anxiety of those who have forgotten how to prophesy because they failed to take up the dreams of their elders, but with serenity and songs of praise. Not with apprehension but with the patience of those who trust in the Spirit, the Lord of dreams and prophecy. In this way, let us share what is truly our own: the hymn that is born of hope.”
Fr Gerard, CSsR