Reflections on the Readings
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord - February 2, 2014 - Year A
People Who Seek The Lord
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the Temple…And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher…She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Living in the Spirit
Forty days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph come to the Temple in Jerusalem to do what their faith in God's ways required. Showing fidelity to the Law, Mary and Joseph wished to fulfill two things as it pertained to the ancient prescriptions. The first was about Mary's purification, an offering presented after thirty-three days from the circumcision of a male child and the subsequent abstention from touching 'any hallowed thing.' (Leviticus 12) The second had to do with the presentation of the firstborn as holy unto the Lord. Being poor, Mary and Joseph provided the double sacrifice of two turtle doves. Their poverty made them unable to present a lamb as a burnt offering along with a turtle dove. In presenting Jesus at the Temple, they give back to the Father the Son who sent him.
It has been a singular blessing to have known people in my life who sought the Lord. They belong to the 'cloud of witnesses' who have long since joined the circle of faith in the presence of God. Additionally, I recall with happy memory the stories of Brother Huebner, my daddy told me. He was a true prophet of the Lord and faithful lay person of his church. He didn't travel or conduct church services. He simply found the comfort of the Holy Spirit and was a lifetime member and pillar in his Pentecostal church. The single thing these stories and the people I knew have in common is their devotion to the Lord. They knew what it was to seek the Lord and to find him and to rejoice in what the Lord revealed to them of his great love.
Mary and Joseph along with Simeon and Anna also are people who lived in the Spirit. Life in the Spirit is the life we are all called to. It was to Mary who first heard the words of Gabriel speaking of the Holy Spirit coming upon her to effect the incarnation of Jesus in her womb. Also, Joseph her spouse, dreams a dream that has its inspiration in the Holy Spirit. Simeon knows that he will not die until he sees with his own eyes the Lord's Christ. How does he know this? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind; the wind of the Holy Spirit. And Anna is alive and aware of God's actions by the Holy Spirit. Her daily prayers and fasting gave her a special sensitivity to God's ways and actions. Again, life in the Spirit is the reality of the Christian faith. If we are not living in the Spirit, we do not really know that Jesus is Lord. (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Faith in God's Power
It's inspiring to recognize that Simeon and Anna lived their lives praying and having faith in God's actions. The Holy Spirit takes away all human boasting. He confounds the wise of this world. He exalts the weak in the world to the exasperation of the strong. The lowly and despised of the world he empowers with his love light and shows them the depths of God. As it is written:
"What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him," God has revealed to us through the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Too much of the time we may allow the spirit of the world to lead us. When that happens, God's voice is too small in our lives and we are not able to comprehend the ways and thoughts of God. But the Spirt which is from God is given to us so that we might understand the gifts God bestows on us.
Simeon and Anna understood the gift of God's Son in their midst. By the Holy Spirit they had eyes that could see and understand God's salvation and great love had suddenly come into the Temple. Seeing Him they rejoiced as only those who have faith in God's power can rejoice. For them the Lord had come and they rejoiced to see his face!
A Temple of the Holy Spirit
Scripture teaches us that we have 'this treasure in earthen vessels.' That is, the treasure of God's love and grace is in us. God does not pour out his Spirit into ornamental jars or into pitchers of silver and gold. No my friend. God pours out his Spirit upon all flesh. Flesh like you and me. Earthen vessels marked with all kinds of imperfections. You and me are God's temple, and God's Spirit dwells in us.
It is people baptized into his family who have the Spirit of God in their lives. And if we are people of the Spirit, we can know and be led by the mind of Christ. Through prayerful devotion and by inviting the Lord's Spirit into our hearts, we can have more of the fruit of the Holy Spirit growing in us. We grow in holiness and grace and in the knowledge of God's love as temples in whom resides the Holy Spirit. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are. (1 Corinthians 3:16)
As temples of the Holy Spirit may we be prayerful and open to all of God's ways. Let us be like Mary and Joseph, and Simeon and Anna, and everyone who through the ages who have walked by faith and not by sight, because we are a people of the Spirit who seek the Lord. Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com