February 2, 2022
by Suzanne Braddock
Creighton University - retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
Lectionary: 524

Malachi 3:1-4
Psalms 24:7, 8, 9, 10
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40 OR 2:22-32

Praying Ordinary Time

Pope Francis on the Presentation - 2014

And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek.

Who is this King of glory? It is the Lord!

In the first reading from Malachi and from Psalm 24 the Lord is portrayed as mighty, strong, even massive such as to require the raising of ancient gates and portals – presumably small compared to the King of glory Israel hoped for and expected. The magnificent work of Handel, The Messiah, uses these words to describe the longed for Redeemer.

And yet – it has been said that another name for God is Surprise! This King of glory arrives not as mighty in battle but as a naked, helpless baby to a poor couple forced to birth him alongside lowly (lowing?) animals in their stable. Surprise!

In Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, Jesus’ humanity is held up to help us realize he is like us, sharing “blood and flesh.” And since all flesh knows the fear of death, Jesus frees us from the slavery that is fear of death by sharing death with us.

We move to Luke’s gospel account of the first of Jesus’ many revealing temple appearances. Who he is is left to two prophets to announce. Simeon’s beautiful “Nunc Dimittis”, is sung every night in monasteries as a comforting reminder that we can go in peace, having seen the salvation prepared for all peoples. ALL PEOPLES! SURPRISE!

Again a surprise – a shocking one – as Simeon  then tells Mary a sword will pierce her so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. At first I was stumped as to what that connection could be – Mary pierced, others’ thoughts?  Fr. Dennis Hamm, S. J. kindly offered his interpretation – Mary’s pain opens her and us into a loving, listening relationship. She becomes our mother as well, ever ready to listen as we pour out our own woundedness to her who certainly must have known many pains as the mother of Jesus.

And now my favorite: Anna, long a widow who was in the temple always worshiping. I call her the first apostle – her exact words not spelled out but she “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”

I am often reluctant to speak out loud of my faith. But Anna invites us to be witnesses to God’s surprises with thanks and to speak openly of Jesus to all who would hear. And amazingly often God rewards our courage with the gratitude of those who heard.

My prayer is that we have the courage to share what our faith means to us, to speak the Jesus story today to one person into whose life we may bring light and comfort.

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Suzanne Braddock <dr.braddock@gmail.com>

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