Wednesday, February 5, 2014
2014/02/03 Why are we in the temple?
Lord, may the words of this Gospel be on my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.
We don't normally say that out loud, but i think it's important to remind ourselves why we do what we do. We say those words silently as a reminder that …. We are about to read the words of Jesus himself, and we ask God to help us to remember the words in our mind – to keep them on our lips so we will speak those words to the people around us – and most of all – to allow the word to sink into our hearts – to change us.
We can always learn a bunch of stuff from the readings, but in order to learn, we have to be Seeking. If we just let the words of Jesus just float past us, we’re not likely to catch the meaning – nor are we likely to let those words change us… We need to let the words challenge us… to make us ask questions – and seek the answers.
Like – why did Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple that day? Because they were following the Jewish law – the law which was written in the book of Leviticus. (The law stated that after a woman gave birth, she was unclean – meaning – not allowed to enter the temple or touch sacred objects – for 40 days.). That tells us something about Joseph and Mary: they took the law of God seriously. They allowed the law of God to guide their actions- and this day, the Holy Spirit led them to take Jesus to the temple.
You might have noticed the connection between this day and the prophecy in the first reading: Malachi tells us that ‘suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek’. He predicted that God would come to the Temple… and it happened today! God, in the person of Jesus, was returning to the temple on Mt. Zion – the place where God had chosen to dwell among the Israelites for centuries. It really WAS a momentous occasion, but nobody really noticed…. Except an old man and an old woman.
Why was it that Simeon and Anna were in the temple that day? Well, the story tells us – Simeon “came in the Spirit to the temple”. In other words – the Holy Spirit prompted him to go that day because he had been told he would see the Messiah before he died. He was there because he was seeking to see Jesus. He allowed himself to be guided by the Spirit.
Anna was there because, it says, she never left the temple. Sounds like she was there EVERY day. Can you imagine going to church every day?...all day? We don’t know much about her, other than the fact that she had been a widow for a long time – maybe for longer than 60 years. It doesn’t TELL us why she was there, but anybody who spends all day, every day in the temple must have a close relationship with God. She must have been seeking to be as close to God as possible. And where better to be close to God than in his Holy Temple on his Holy Mountain.
That leads to the ultimate question… why do WE come to the temple? Why are we here today? Perhaps many of us are here for the same reason as Mary and Joseph – to obey the law. Somewhere along the line, it was instilled in us by our parents or grandparents that following the guidelines of the church is important – so we come to Mass every week. We know deep down that obedience to God is what will bring us ultimate joy.
Or maybe some of us are here for the same reason as Simeon – we are seeking to see Jesus. Perhaps WE were led by the Holy Spirit to come here today? Hmmm… I’d go so far as to say that indeed every ONE of us was led by the Spirit to come here today. You might think your wife twisted your arm or your Mom didn’t give you a choice… but in reality, the Spirit won’t hesitate to use other people to guide us where He wants us to be. So – we let the Spirit guide us to come here today.
Or maybe we’re like Anna – we’re here because we have a relationship with God and we want nothing more than to be close to Him.
Why are WE here today? We came to see Jesus.
Something else that makes me scratch my head… why is it that Simeon and Anna recognized Jesus for who he is that day, but nobody else in the temple did?
In fact, how is it that they knew who he was that day, but it wasn’t for another 30 years before the rest of the world came to know who he is?
There’s a simple answer, I think… they recognized him because… they were seeking Jesus. They came to church that day because they knew they were going to see Jesus.
Here’s the point: Jesus can’t be found by a group of people – that may sound like i am contradicting myself, but it's true. The general population looks right past him without even noticing. No - Jesus reveals himself to one person at a time. In other words, when we come to church, each of us individually must be seeking Jesus. We're all responsible for our own relationship with Jesus, so when we come into church, we kneel down and say, "God, I've got all this stuff on my mind...my worries...my sins...Please help me to set all of that aside for the next hour and reveal yourself to me. He IS here – will we see Him?
You may remember - We’re taught that Christ is present in the Mass four ways: obviously, in the Eucharist, where he becomes present body, blood, soul, and divinity right there on our altar. You might also remember that He is present in His words… as we read the Gospel. But he’s also present in the priest – Fr. Eugene acts ‘in Persona Christi’ – which means, he asks in the person of Christ…in place of Christ. Like I’ve said before, when the priest performs a Sacrament like the Eucharist – it is not the priest saying the words of consecration – but it is Jesus himself saying the words through the mouth of the Priest. “This is My Body”. Where is the fourth place that Jesus is present in the Mass? In you. He is present in the Body of Christ on earth – which is the Church. The Church is you and me. When we are baptized, we become temples of the Holy Spirit – and that spirit guides us to come together every Sunday to bring the body of Christ back together. Look around…Jesus is present today in the temple… have you recognized him yet?
What are we supposed to do once we’ve come here and seen Jesus? Look at what Simeon and Anna did. Simeon gave witness to the greatness of God. Anna – look at what it says – “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. “
We should do likewise. Just like Simeon, we hold him in our hands when we come forward and say ‘amen’. We have SEEN the salvation that God has prepared for his people. We should let that CHANGE us. We should be like Anna and tell everybody we know about it: We have seen Jesus!