Homily for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
I don’t know about you, but I have personally met people who appear to be prophets of doom. They are the people who would rather enjoy seeing the negatives, the gloomy aspects of things, the pessimistic view, the people who would say the ‘cup is half-empty’ rather than saying ‘the cup is half-full.’ I could remember when a lady, a school catechist I personally know, said to me: ‘I’m sure you would never become a priest.’ And another time another lady said to me: ‘By the way you take on things and by the way you make decisions for yourself, you would never succeed in life.’
I have to confess, I was upset when they told me that. I even tried to defend myself reproving the school catechist. I said to her: ‘Who are you to tell me that? Do you know what’s in my heart? Do you know what God wants me to do in my life?’ Do you know God’s will for me?’
After I was ordained, a thought came to me to go and see those two ladies and to prove them wrong. I thought of telling them: ‘See, your prophecy wasn’t fulfilled! You said to me before ‘I’ll never become a priest’ or I’ll never succeed, well here I am now.’ But no, I didn’t do anything of that sort because there’s no need to do that. For me, it is not what happened before that matters to me, or what people say or think of me. What matters more for me is how God’s will for me is being realized.
Reflecting on the gospel today in this feast of the Presentation of the Lord, I would say, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna would have shared the same sentiment with me. It is evident in their lives that what happened to them or in them couldn’t sway them away from letting God’s will be done in them. Simeon was getting old and he was promised by God that He would see in his own eyes the Messiah. Waiting for that long, keeping his eyes and ears open to any sign of Christ, would have been a great test for his patience. As a saying goes: ‘Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can, seldom in a woman, never in a man.’ But Simeon kept on waiting as he continued living as a devout and upright man.
The same with Anna. She only enjoyed 7 years of married life when she became a widow. And she was 84 years old. Being a widow in her time was a difficult one, because they couldn’t even own a property if they had no male child to bear the name. She lived on though, through prayer and fasting and never left the temple. Some commentator would interpret this that she didn’t leave the Church as a community. In there she might have felt belonged, cared for and fulfilled her mission from the Lord. She also waited for the messiah patiently.
And their waiting, their patience paid off. They were able to gaze the beautiful face of the Holy Child of God. Simeon even carried him in his arms while praying that ‘he could die in peace now’ because he has already seen the fulfilment of all the prophecies.
Mary and Joseph too might have been scared of what Simeon prophesied about the child. Simeon told her of the sorrow and the pain she would have to bear as she watched the child Jesus grew. He told her that Jesus would stir a controversy later, to be rejected even. If Mary contested, she could have reproved Simeon saying: ‘Who are you to tell me that? Do you know what’s in my heart? Do you know what God wants me to do in my life?’ Do you know God’s will for me?’ But no, she let that experience go, pondering everything in her heart. Later on she would come to understand that everything happened in them and to them is part of God’s will for them.
These four important figures in the gospel and Jesus himself are showing us the way to let God’s will be done unto us.
But what is God’s will for all of us? God’s will for us is that we all be saved. So no matter what we have done, or who we are, what have we become, God’s wants us to be saved. He just wants us to enjoy his friendship and company forever. For God what matters is not what happened to us before. He has already assured us of that by becoming human like us, by dying for our sins, and by opening the doors of the kingdom for us. But, this is not and must not be a licence to do anything we want. Rather, we need to do our part. We need to use our freedom responsibly. We need to long, we need to desire for God, we need to grow in the desire for the kingdom.
This is a challenge because everyday we are facing plenty of choices. It is important to note here that freedom is not choosing anything we want or doing anything we want to do. It is rather doing the good thing and choosing the true and the right choice. We need to choose God. We need to let his will be done unto us. Like Simeon we are called to live a devout and upright life. Like Anna, we are urged to live a life of prayer and fasting. Like Mary and Joseph we are to live a simple, humble, prayerful life and a life of faith, hope and love, while being enlightened by God’s will in all that we do.
Let us remember always too that the more we walk closer to Jesus, the more evident the cross is. The more we let God’s will be done unto us, the more the evil one, the rebellious tempt us to ignore God. The more we live out our Christian identity, the more people noticed us. And some would even criticize us, or ridicule us. But no matter what they say or do to us, if we have the faith, if we have Christ in our hearts, we always emerge victorious.
For myself, if I believed in the negativity and gloomy prediction of those two women I mentioned above, I would never be able to open myself completely to the will of God. But because I believed it is his will for me to be one of his priests, I didn’t care so much of what people say or think of me, I went on…and here I am by God’s grace and generosity serving in his vineyard…and I hope that I will continue to be attentive to God’s will for me, everyday all the days of my life.
For us here today, let’s keep up with our faith as we live in hope while waiting for the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the light of the nations, the Lord of all, and the saviour for us all. Amen.