‘Purification’: Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni OSB
2nd February: The Presentation of The Lord
First Reading: Malachi 3:1–4
Psalm: Psalm 24:126.96.36.199
Second Reading: Hebrews 2:14–18
Gospel: Luke 2:22–40
Homily (Reflection) and Listening To The Word
Theme: “Purification-Purify my heart, O Lord: The candle is lit for purification”
Point of reflection: Why Jesus Christ who is God (second person of the Holy Trinity) had to be presented in the Temple? As they went for purification, am I read to purify my heart, (my soul)? The time for purification has come and it is now not tomorrow.
Homily (Reflection): Dear friends of God, on 2nd February every year, we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. This feast we commemorate the presentation of the Lord, whereby, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus went to the Temple to fulfil the requirement of the Mosaic Law and they met Simeon and Anna. Traditionally, this feast was variously called the Purification of Mary, Hypopanti (encounter between Simeon and Jesus), and Candlemas. All these names have been used in the Church to emphasis the significance of this feast.
According to the book of Exodus, the Lord commanded, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn, whatever is the first to open the womb of the Israelite human beings and animals, is mine (Cf. Exodus 13.1). Jesus being the firstborn of Mary, He had to be presented in the Temple. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus went to the Temple to fulfil the Law.
Though Jesus was divine, still He submitted Himself to the Law. Perhaps, we might ask ourselves, why Jesus Christ who is God had to submit himself to the Law. Jesus said, I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfil the law (Cf. Matthew 5:17). Hence, Jesus submitted Himself to the Law so that He could REDEEM us from the Law. St Paul very aptly said, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent His only Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive the adoption as Children” (Cf. Gal 4:4-5).
The readings of the 2nd February reflects the divine mystery of the Presentation of the Lord. The first reading from Malachi points out clearly that God will send someone higher who is the Lord and the Lord whom you seek will come to His Temple (Cf. Malachi 3:1-2). And the second reading reminds us that the Son of God has chosen to be one of us and to share our human destiny. This is why he had to be presented in the Temple.
The Gospel narrates how Jesus was presented and the act of Hypopanti which is the encounter of Simeon and Jesus. The message is very clear that, Simeon was told by God that He will not die until He had seen the Messiah. “Lord let your servant now depart in peace … my eyes have seen your salvation. As Christians, have we seen the messiah? Here the Messiah is being presented in his sight and he prays for his happy death. Let us open our eyes and hearts to see the messiah. The same prayer of Simeon is said during night prayer as Nunc Dimittis, “At last all-powerful Master, let your servant go in peace… give glory to Israel your people”
In an extraordinary form, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord is the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to the traditions of the Jewish law in which a mother who had just given birth had to abstain herself from coming to the House of God as the blood discharge from the birth process was an impurity that needed to be purified first, and on the fortieth day after the birth of the child, the mother was to be brought to the Temple to be purified.
And today marks the fortieth day since the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas), this means that, Mary the mother of the Lord had to go to the Temple for her ritual purification too as the Child Jesus was presented in the Temple. Quite interesting to note in the Gospel of Luke is that, it says: “their purification” not “her purification” (Luke 2:22). The ipso facto is that the conception and birth of Jesus did not defile Mary as other women were by their children. Jesus and Mary had nothing to cleanse themselves from, but they submitted themselves to the rite of purification in order to obey the Mosaic Law. As Christians, are we ready to be purified?
Listening to the Word of God“let us purify our hearts: the lighted candle is our salvation”
In honour of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple which is the divine mystery, the liturgy of today invites all the faithful to light a candle. We all need to hasten to meet Christ who is our Lord and every baptised Christian must be eager to light a candle as we open our hearts to receive the Lord. Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendour of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil in our lives and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of His eternal light.
Either you are alone or a group during this turbulent time of Covid-19 and you cannot go to Church to celebrate with your fellow parishioners or your community members, as a person and a family, you need to light a candle and offer a prayer in solidarity with those infected and affected by Covid-19. At the same time, our candles show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ. Let our hearts listen and see the light of the Lord.
Action: The candle I have lit in honour of the Presentation of the Lord must trigger in me the spirit of presenting myself, my body and my action to the Lord. I need to be more open to the Lord to receive the graces that God has bestowed on me each and every day. Are my actions reflecting darkness or light? If I have lit a candle today, why should I walk in darkness? It is my resolution today, to always be the light to the World and allow myself to undergo a process of purification as our mother Mary did. I need to purify my heart (soul) today not tomorrow and sin should not be a portion in my (our) life.
Prayer: Lord God, as Simeon saw and met the Lord before he died, help me(us) to meet the Lord as the lighted candle symbolises the Presentation of the Lord. We are living in the turbulent times of Covid-19, where death is coming at any hour, purify my (our) soul (s) so that at the hour of death we may sing Alleluia and go in peace and meet the Lord. Help me (us) to be the light of the World, as Jesus was presented in the Temple, let me(us) today and this week present myself(ourselves) to the Lord and I(we) be purified as Mary the mother of the Church did. We ask all these through Jesus Christ our Lord and Redeemer, who lives and reigns with You forever and ever, Amen.
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