Grace: To imitate the humility, forgetfulness of self, and patience exhibited in the saints who follow Christ.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 2: 22-38
Reflection: Today’s meditation is on the mystery of Our Lady’s purification and the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. We take time during our prayer to imagine how Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus make their way from Bethlehem up to Jerusalem in order to fulfill the law. They get in line just like everyone else—without privileges or exceptions. They offer two turtledoves: the sacrifice offered by the poor unable to afford a larger animal. They meet Simeon, who has been promised that he would see the Savior of Israel before passing away and Anna, an untiring servant of the Lord who passes her day praying in the Temple. These individuals allow us to ponder what it truly means to be humble, selfless, and patient.
At the time of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Mary has already completed a major part of her mission: she has said Yes to the angel and has become the Mother of God by bringing the Christ child into the world. What is she to do next? What more does her mission require of her? First, we should consider that Mary remains humble even to the point of submitting to the purification requirements of the Mosaic Law which held that women were ritually unclean in the week following childbirth (Leviticus 12). Obviously Mary had no need for purification being herself conceived without sin and conceiving Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, but she nevertheless chose to obey the Law, a true mark of her humility before the Lord.
Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the Temple for his “redemption” according to the Law. We might expect that when God’s very Son is presented in God’s own Temple it would be a spectacular event. We might expect choirs of angels, bright lights, maybe even a few trumpet flourishes. But what we see in this mystery is precisely the opposite. We encounter here a mystery that is the very essence of hiddenness, intimacy, and selflessness. The Holy Family makes the offering of two birds for Jesus rather than a lamb, thus making the offering of poor people. Furthermore, as Mary and Joseph go to the Temple, they go in complete anonymity. They do not expect anyone at all to take notice of them; they expect no special treatment whatsoever. Rather, they go in a poor, lowly, and quiet way and are thus taken by surprise when Simeon and Anna recognize the child through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Luke tells us that Simeon was righteous and devout and that it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not taste death before seeing the Messiah. How many years had this old man waited in patience and prayer, carrying out his religious duties with silent fidelity? Luke tells us that there was also a widow in the Temple, also of great age, who waited on the Lord day and night with prayer and fasting. Such patience is one of the most Christian of virtues because it is another way of saying, “Lord, thy will be done.” It is a way of allowing things to happen according to God’s timetable and His good pleasure rather than demanding that things happen when and how we think they should.
Questions: Who are people I know who exhibit the virtues of humility, selflessness, and patience like Mary, Joseph, Simeon, and Anna? Where do I need to be more humble and patient in my own life? When I give of myself, do I expect recognition of others? Are there things in my life that prevent me from truly giving of myself to others and work or prevent me from discerning God’s will for me?