November 21, 2018
by Eileen-Burke Sullivan
Creighton University's Theology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 499

Revelation 4:1-11
Psalms 150:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6
Luke 19:11-28

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Over these weeks of November, the Church’s Liturgy turns more and more toward what Theologians call Eschatology – reflections on the ultimate outcome of living in this world.  What we mean by ultimate outcome, of course, is the way we will enjoy the fullness of God’s Reign.  John calls this same mystery our participation in life everlasting.  Paul describes it as being “in Christ.”  These images of the perfection of the life that is promised by God are not just about life after death, but are about life here and now.

The three images offer us different ways to approach the mystery, but they are rich in the expectation of the way we will respond to Christ’s call made visible in the Sacrament of Baptism.  As we passed through the waters of life and death we were transformed utterly – we took on the Divine Life of Jesus Christ and can now participate in the Life of Christ as members of his Body.  For this reason, as Pope Francis reminds us frequently, we are people of JOY.  The Victory is won for us – and now God enables us to participate in the “realization” – that is making real - of if for ourselves and those we encounter. God’s Reign (also described as Kingdom), everlasting life, and being in Christ are all descriptions here and now of our cooperation with God’s invitation to live the Christ Life.

Mysteriously, that promise, and gift, was realized in Mary of Nazareth, from her conception.  Today’s feast in the Eastern Church and Memorial in the Western Church, invites us to consider Mary as an image or “stand-in” for the whole Church.  What is given to her is also given to us.  What was given her in her conception is granted to us in our birth in the waters of Baptism.  This invitation and perfection was realized in Mary when her parents brought her to the Women’s Gate of the Temple and presented her to God. Her parents were graced to understand that Mary would play a unique role in God’s Plan of Salvation – thus even as a little child she was dedicated to God’s service. We the Church are likewise called to play a unique role in God’s plan.  We are called to give ourselves intentionally and concretely to living the virtues of the Gospel.  For many years we thought that those in Professional Religious Life were to do that for us, but Baptism calls every member of Christ’s Body to this task and this glory.

The readings today are not from the Marian lectionary, but the readings of Ordinary Time.  They intersect with his feast because they invite us to consider deeply the invitation to participate in the Christ life to which we have been presented and dedicated.  The Gospel warns that those who are given gifts for the sake of the Kingdom, (read, all of us who have been Baptized) must use them or lose them.  Whether given ten, or five or one opportunity, we are to use it for God’s Glory (the Magis in Ignatian terms).

The first reading, from the Book of Revelations is a rich vision of the Glory of God that will be disclosed in the wonder, magnificence and beauty of all creation, when we truly recognize that God is God. 

Rather than thinking of a text like this a vision of life after this life, it is worth considering that the author   is caught up in this life in a vision of the Glory of God, and he describes it in creation terms. 

What serves your imagination to consider the magnificence where God fully dwells?  For me the golden autumn sunset today was a hint. There was this glorious, golden light that bathed all things in breath-taking beauty. The trees, bushes, birds, grass, remnants of snow, even my brown and white shepherd dog were all tinged in gold and glowed with blinding vibrancy in the reflection of that westering sun.  This was a mere hint or whisper of the wondrous vision that the author of Revelations wants to share with us – to give us the hope and the courage that he must have had from his encounter with God’s Glory.

As we celebrate the harvest and a national day of Thanksgiving here in the U.S.  we must be reminded that all creation discloses God’s glory, and that all of us throughout the world are called to share in God’s Glory.  By co-laboring with God we help realize today the promise fulfilled by Jesus;  every human can live in hope;  we stop relating to our world as a trash heap but allow it to be the throne of God  that the Divine Majesty created it to be.

AS the Mother of the Church celebrates her presentation to God, we sons and daughters are also re-presented and re-dedicated to God’s glory, we pray with all the holy ones through the centuries: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord . . .  heaven and earth are full of your glory.”

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