Saturday, February 2, 2013

You may let your servant go in peace

Today is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, in which we recall Mary and Joseph bringing the infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for His ritual purification according to the old Jewish law. We read in today's Gospel of St. Simeon, who was in the Temple when the Holy Family arrived there.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel,and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“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 the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”
-- Luke 2:25-32

Simeon had been waiting his whole life for the Messiah to come, for God's promises to be fulfilled. He was so overjoyed to know that Jesus had finally come, to see and hold Jesus in the flesh, that he felt that his life was complete. What more could there be, after knowing such joy? St. Simeon waited his whole life just for a glimpse of that joy--just for a moment with Jesus.

Not that long ago, I had the privilege of hearing a priest speak about a rainy day when he was out carrying the Eucharist in a pyx to sick and elderly parishioners. As the priest was out walking, a mugger pulled a gun on him. At that moment, with Our Eucharistic Lord cradled in his hand, the priest says that what flashed through his mind were the words of St. Simeon: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word,for my eyes have seen your salvation."

Ancient philosophers used to say that part of the point of philosophy was to learn how to die: to learn how to see things in the right, larger perspective. Every Sunday at Mass, we have the chance to meet Jesus in the flesh. We have seen, with our own eyes, the salvation of all peoples. Whatever else happens to us, having seen the Lord, for whom St. Simeon waited his whole life, for whom the Jewish people waited for thousands of years, we have much to be grateful for about how our lives have gone. To be alive now, to be able to see the Lord: when death comes, as it will, may we remember how lucky we have been, to live such a life, in such a blessed time.

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