What a curious divergence of readings! Malachi has the messenger of the Lord coming with fire and the refiner’s lye to purify the temple guardians so that Judah and Jerusalem may offer pure sacrifice: “Who will endure the day of his coming?”
Hebrews describes Jesus as “a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people... Because he himself was tested through what he suffered he is able to help those who are being tested.”
So, which is it? Or do we have to choose between what seems to be the harsh picture of the “messenger of God” and Jesus?
What if… What if this simple and touching portrayal of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus meeting Anna and Simeon is in fact the very picture of purification?
Here’s a thought: Simeon’s prayer reveals a heart purified. Anna’s praise shows to all a heart refined by the coming of the Lord.
I think that the reason the images of God coming to purify Israel are so scary is that we humans are terrified of letting go and surrendering our precious little treasures of whatever-we-cling-to-that-is-false.
People are changed, transformed, or “purified” mainly by experiences of love, right? Fear and terror may bring about some guilty responses. These eventually turn around and bite us you-know-where.
Love and mercy, however, allow us to let down the walls, hand over the false illusions we live with, and surrender our lives to God with joy. This little gospel passage is mainly about joy and delight, isn’t it?
May the Christ arrive soon at our temple courts, there to purify our hearts with mercy!