What is February 2nd known for? In secular society, it’s ‘Groundhog’s Day.’ While there’s nothing wrong with remembering this little rodent and speculating on whether or not he’ll see his silhouette created by the sun, I’d invite us to go a little deeper.
While the sun is a beautiful thing, and certainly necessary for life, February 2nd is an invitation for us to remember the true Light. While our friend Punxsutawney Phil sneaks out of his hole to see what he can see, the Church celebrates a truly luminous event, the Presentation of Our Lord in the temple, according to Jewish custom, forty days after His birth.
The Presentation is Significant
This feast of the Presentation, when we remember the dedication of Jesus in the temple, has a special significance to me, for it was on this day that I was received as a postulant at our provincial house in Hankinson, ND. It is also the World Day for the Consecrated Life. It is a beautiful time for me personally to think back on my first steps toward this vocation which I am blessed to live.
I must confess that I have not always found it easy to meditate upon this mystery of Christ’s Presentation. (In fact, I’ll confess that I have even substituted a different one in place of the fourth glorious mystery of the rosary.) However, as I’ve reflected more on this important event, I’ve found that the people in today’s gospel encounter are really inspiring models for all of us.
Let’s start with Mary and Joseph, who teach us humility and obedience. They were faithful to God’s call to them, both received directly (e.g., angelic apparitions) and as seen in the law of their people. This holy couple obediently sacrificed two pigeons or turtle doves as was the normal requirement for a woman’s “purification” after childbirth. They presented the Child Jesus in the temple; the firstborn was to be given back to God, so to speak, according to the law. In Israelite tradition, the firstborn was usually ransomed back by the parents by payment of a tax. One might say that Mary and Joseph recognized Christ as a gift, not a possession, and presented Him to His Father in the temple. We, too, can recognize that our lives really belong to God. Through baptism, we belong to Christ.
They also showed humility in this scene of the Presentation. They could have said, “We’re different; we don’t have to do this.” Mary didn’t need purification; she is the purest human person that ever lived. Nonetheless, she and Joseph were humbly obedient. Unlike us, who are so eager to make excuses, Mary and Joseph didn’t do look for the easy way out.
Also, they didn’t pretend to be something they weren’t. They offered the turtle doves or pigeons (sacrifice allowed for poor people) instead of a (more expensive) lamb and dove.
Furthermore, they brought Jesus to others. What a beautiful thing that is! We, too, are called to do this in our own lives. One additional aspect of Mary and Joseph’s part in this story, which I especially like, is that Jesus returned home with them. He stayed with them day after day for all those years. As a religious Sister, I am spoiled! We have Jesus in our own house; we have a tabernacle in the chapel just down the hall from my bedroom!
Each of us, though, would do well to remember Christ’s presence with us spiritually throughout the day.
The example of Simeon, too, gives us inspiration. He had the courage to speak the truth, even when it wasn’t “pretty.” He predicted the sorrows of Mary’s motherhood, that a sword of sorrow would pierce her soul. Speaking the truth is sometimes difficult. Furthermore, it’s sometimes hard to know when and what to speak. Simeon gives us an example of responsiveness to Holy Spirit. “He came in the Spirit into the temple.” The few words we hear about this saintly man show that he was a person very close to God and attuned to His Spirit.
Simeon lived in hope, trusting and patient for the revelation of the Savior. Sometimes we, on the other hand, pray for something and want answers now. What an example Simeon gives us of patient, trustful waiting!
He also is an inspiration in how he recognized Jesus. The Holy Spirit enabled him to do so. His holiness and closeness to God allowed Simeon to recognize Christ’s presence when others missed it. He also can be a model to us in his giving praise to God. Anna, too, serves as an example. She told others about Jesus, those who were awaiting Him.
The Light of Christ
We, too, can share the light of Christ with those we meet, whether it be as a consecrated religious, married person, or someone seeking holiness in any walk of life.
This feast of the Presentation is often associated with light; Simeon proclaimed Christ as “a light to reveal You to the nations…” Candles for the coming year are often blessed during the liturgy on this day.
This feast serves as a stimulus for me, as I remember a pivotal step in my journey with Our Lord, to renew my efforts at sharing the light of Christ amidst the shadows of life. Today, as you hear about the groundhog and his shadow, you might want take the time to remember Our Lord’s presentation, re-dedicating yourself to Him, who is the “true light enlightening everyone.”