Holy Family B 2017

I sometimes imagine Simeon receiving the promise from the Holy Spirit that he would see “the Christ of the Lord,” as a young man. There is no evidence of this but it seems to me his reaction to seeing Jesus is not just joy, but relief.  I think of the thrill he must have had when receiving the news and how anxious he must have been to know he would witness Israel’s salvation.  But as we know, not only are hope and expectation a great joy, but also a burden that taxes our patience.  In those long years, how many children did he see and wonder if that child is the Messiah?  How many times did he hear preachers in the precincts of the Temple who intrigued him and thought could that be the one?  The suddenly, on this day, he spies Jesus, a child no less or more beautiful than any other.  And he knows. He knows like one who had that thought they had been in love, but now truly know what love is.  And he boldly takes the child from his mother’s arms and beautifully proclaims, “”Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

One can instantly sense that Simeon has met his peace; so much so that he is ready to go home to the Lord.   He is absolutely fulfilled by holding salvation in his arms – nothing else is needed.  And then there is the old prophetess Anna.  She was not given the same promise as Simeon, but she is so holy, so attuned to God, that upon witnessing the scene with Simeon and Jesus, she gets it.  And while Simeon is ready to rest in peace, Anna is just getting started, “She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”  She is among the first evangelizers of Jesus.

That is the beauty of the incarnation.  God has come to earth.  The Word has been made flesh.  And once that glory appears on earth, it remains here.  It becomes part of the fabric of our lives.  Heaven now intersects with earth.  Those heavenly moments, those zones of God’s presence become what we live for.  When we glimpse our salvation, we know the peace that Simeon felt and we feel the need to share it as Anna did.

The easiest way to know those moments is to think of the most significant ones.  Have you ever been to a bad baptism?  I love them because we are reminded of the promise we have been given as surely as Simeon – we will know our salvation.  Weddings too are a sign of God’s promise fulfilled as two people entrust their faith and lives with each other.  All our milestones: first job and retirement, first love and last breath are a window into grace.

But the incarnation means that God is everywhere, so our salvation is made known in the common and the subtle as well.  Moments when peace overtakes you and joy fills you.  I see it at holidays when children return and parents gleam that their families are intact.  You can find it in quiet moments with a friend or uproarious moments with your holy family.  In younger years, my friend Fred and I would choose a Mets night game on the west coast, pull a television out on the porch, back when you could pull a television, grab a cold beverage and watch a game in the warmth of a summer evening. That felt pretty close to heaven to me.

Today is New Year’s Eve.  Promise me to make this resolution:  Aware of God’s presence you will spend your time looking for glimpses of salvation; treasuring the heavenly things of earth.  Be on the lookout for the beautiful, the miraculous and the loving and your eyes will see the salvation that God has prepared.  Be like Simeon and let that peace rest in your soul.  Be like Anna and tell the story of the touch of the Holy Spirit.  Then you will know true peace.  Then you will celebrate the glory of our God!

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