Today’s feast, the Presentation of the Lord, commemorates the
Jewish ritual in which a mother comes to the temple to be purified 40 days
after giving birth to her child. Thus, Mary and Joseph come to the
temple with Jesus for the prescribed purification.
Luke’s gospel tells us that there in the temple the holy family met Simeon
and Anna. Simeon, a man led by the Spirit, had been longing for the
salvation promised by God. When he saw the holy family, he took the
infant Jesus into his arms and prayed with fervor; he thanked God for the
joy of meeting the long-awaited source of salvation for the whole world.
He recognizes Jesus as both the glory of Israel and the “light” to the Gentiles.
Anna, too, similarly recognizes in the child Jesus a source of great joy because
of the redemption that will come to the world because of him.
It strikes me that this feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
is a wonderful celebration for the liturgical period called Ordinary Time.
In it Jesus is presented in all his ordinariness. He is an infant and
his parents are poor and they meet ordinary folks in the Temple, Simeon and
the prophetess Anna. Then, when they leave Jerusalem they return to
Nazareth and Jesus continues the “hidden” life about which we know so little
from the gospels. Only after a long 30 years does Jesus open the public
dimension of his life. His public life is the familiar territory of
the gospels: it includes inviting disciples to join in his work, a ministry
in Galilee, and the long journey back to Jerusalem where he completes his
life in the passion and death and, finally, the resurrection by the power
of his Father.
But for now his life is quite ordinary and hidden. The hidden life
of Jesus is more than just preparation for his public life. In the hidden
life we discover how Jesus fully enters into our ordinary human life.
Most of our lives are ordinary; and so the hidden life of Jesus is instructive
Jesus teaches us above all that the extraordinary is found in the
ordinary. His was indeed an extraordinary life from beginning to end.
It was extraordinary precisely because of his faithfulness to the ordinary
occurrences and events of life.
Lord, let me see that you are found in the ordinary, everyday events of my
life. Let me consider my everyday life with its joys and sorrows as
crucially important because that is where I experience your life-giving presence.
Help me to be thankful for the lessons that you teach through your “hidden”
life and your faithfulness to the ordinary.