While the nation celebrates Groundhog Day, we as a church celebrate the Feast of the Presentation as recounted in today’s gospel. St. Luke’s narration is of the Presentation in the Temple. The presentation that was required 40 days after Jesus’ nativity to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn son, in obedience to the Torah (cf. Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15). It is then and there that the Holy Family encountered Simeon who had waited a lifetime. Then suddenly Jesus was there. Simeon possessed a patience and faith most of us do not possess.
At the moment of the promised encounter, he prays one of my favorite prayer, prayed nightly in the Divine Office:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
He was ready. Simeon had spent a lifetime to become righteous and devout.
I would not be so bold as to hold my hand aloft and claim the same stature. I was created in the image of God – and since then I have collected flotsam and jetsam from the wreckage of the world in patterns of thought, attitudes, habits and being. Things that are not of God, not for God and, not always with God. And so this day I am captured by the first reading:
Thus says the Lord GOD: Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire. (Malachi 3:1-2)
Simeon was attentive to the things of God; I want to be. I am not always.
I have faith in Jesus’ promise of salvation. That is not for me to doubt. What is for me is the refiner’s fire. In prayer, confession and penance, I can begin the purifying process. The day will come suddenly but hopefully there will be a little less refining to do. Until then, Master let your servant go in peace. My final words of each day, readying for another day of faith and refining.