Luke’s gospel recalls the faithful Jewish practice of Jesus’ family
going to the temple for the ritual cleansing of his mother 40 days after
giving birth and the obligation to present the child publicly to God.
The church gives us this reading in the lectionary today, 40 days after Christmas
day. (For my Mexican friends, the 40 days after giving birth are still
important days of home-stay for many new mothers.)
Mary and Joseph pray and offer traditional sacrifices as they prepare for
this next stage of their awesome journey as parents of this mystery child.
Jesus is presented to God and to the elders. Simeon and Anna proclaim
his destiny and rejoice in his presence. Mary and Joseph take this all
in. Their vocation as parents and Jesus’ vocation begin to unfold.
I can’t think of a better feast to celebrate parenting! Today is the
anniversary of my becoming a parent 18 years ago. It has been the greatest
catalyst of spiritual, intellectual and moral transformation in my life.
The birth of my son Philip called me to a new way of living out my discipleship.
Having been called to ministry early in life, I worked many late nights and
was involved with many lives. I found that this vulnerable child, dependent
on my milk, called forth from me sacrifices and generosity, presence and focus,
discernment and perseverance I never dreamed I was capable of. In Hispanic
ministry, we hold up “pastoral de conjunto” (collaborative or team
ministry is a rough translation) as the optimal approach to ministry.
This ministry of parenting taught me much about how to value the gifts of
my spouse, to lean on him for his strengths, live generously, hold up my commitments
and to pray and discern together continually. I have learned how much
this ministry is a “pastoral de conjunto” con Dios! Philip is
above all God’s child. How intensely I know this, and how freeing it
Mary must have felt the same tremendous awe and privilege that I feel as
a parent – a hundred fold! I imagine her trust in God growing as she
sensed her own limitations and rejoiced in the strong taproot of her faith
Years ago, and still in some communities around the world, the church uses
and blesses candles on this day (Candelmas Day) to symbolize the radiance
of God’s gift of Jesus to all the world. Simeon prays and proclaims
Jesus as the light of truth and glory for Israel and for all people!
I pray for you on this your birthday, Philip, and for all of our young adult
sons and daughters. I present you to the Lord with all your strivings,
yearnings, accomplishments, doubts and unspoken hopes. May the brilliance
of the truth of Jesus as personal savior and liberator of the world penetrate
your mind and soul. Jesus has already redeemed the world. We are called
into “pastoral de conjunto” with the Spirit to work steadfastly and
courageously for the justice that reveals the truth of God’s care.
May you rejoice as Simeon and Anna did in the temple with the conviction
that NO MATTER WHAT, God is with you. God will lead and guide you in
the unfolding of your vocation. I pray God will also guide us as parents in
this stage of accompanying and being co-laborers, co-ministers with you and
all our young adult children.