Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Of course, the Gospel is drawn from Luke’s infancy narrative (Lk 2:22-40) in which the Holy Family brings Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for His consecration, as prescribed by Jewish law. There Simeon and Anna are encountered and they have much to say about this child.
We are told that Simeon was “awaiting the consolation of Israel” (v. 25) and “that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord” (v. 26). One can imagine how closely this old man read the Scriptures and the amount of time he spent contemplating them and meditating on them. He would not want to have taken any chance that he would miss this promised epiphany or fail to appreciate the magnitude of its import. Malachi’s prophecy would not have been lost on him. In fact, I think it quite likely that this passage (especially the headline) would have jumped first to his mind when the Holy Spirit led him to the temple that glorious day. The following line, “But who will endure the day of his coming?” (Mal 3:2), may well have influenced his words directed to Mary and Joseph: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel” (v. 34). Some will endure, others will not. But the time to get off the fence had now come for the Chosen People. Simeon was hardly alone in “awaiting the consolation of Israel” (v. 25). But was this Child what was expected? Would His ministry bring consolation? Yes, to those who had ears to hear and whose hearts of stone were prepared to be transformed into hearts of flesh (cf. Ezek 11:19 and 36:26). For the rest, who could not endure His refining fire (cf. Mal 3:2), He became an obstacle to be eliminated. Those who thought they would rise, fell. And those who in humility and gratitude fell on their knees in spirit, in turn, rose.
So it is a lesson and warning for us today. We, too, await and desire consolation. But can we endure this Refiner’s fire? Are we ready to hear the Lord, really listen, in Scripture and in prayer, in love and in humility, to the Word that softens hearts and sets them ablaze? And do we go to the new Temple, the church in which we find Christ, now in His Eucharistic presence, to effect this change? We are to fall on our knees so that we can rise with Him.