(Adults, you may want to use this reflection instead, written for the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple, Feb. 2nd, 2020.)
After a long Advent, the feast of Christmas has finally arrived! We have only just begun to celebrate. The first Sunday of the Christmas season is the Feast of the Holy Family. Last week we listened to the moment when Mary says yes to the Plan of God, yes to bringing this life into the world. It is an extraordinary moment. We can wonder if that is what life is like for the Holy Family--one extraordinary moment after another. Is that what participating in the Plan of God is like?
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
What is happening here? Twice we hear, "the law of the Lord." The Jewish people treasure the Law given to them by God. Mary and Joseph are following what the Word of God tells all Jewish families to do. They return to the community after the birth of their son with an offering of thanksgiving. They bring their firstborn son to the Temple to offer him to God. This is a special day, but it is also a rather ordinary event. All Jewish families do this. They are being obedient.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
Here is a new person: Simeon. What can we say about him? We are told that he is righteous and devout. That means he does what is right, and he is devoted to God. What would that mean? What would he do? What would his days be like? We know he is a good person; like Mary and Joseph, he says yes to the Plan of God. But would you say his life is ordinary or extraordinary? Or...both?
Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple;
(going to Temple is an ordinary event)
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law,
(customary means ordinary)
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
In the middle of doing something ordinary, Mary and Joseph meet Simeon. While doing something ordinary, Simeon meets Jesus. These three people are being obedient to God, and something extraordinary happens.
A man Mary and Joseph have never met before, takes their child into his arms, and speaks of salvation and light and glory. Mary and Joseph know that their child is special--they have been told that he is holy--but they must have been growing used to this. Following the Plan of God must have become ordinary to them because this extraordinary event surprises them:
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.
They are amazed; this means that the Holy Spirit fills them with the gift of awe and wonder. God surprises even Mary and Joseph!
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day.
Here is another person who is devoted to God. We know what an ordinary day in the life of Anna is like. She prays and worships God all the time. Can we say she participates in the Plan of God? I think so! I think we can call her an obedient servant of God.
At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
In the midst of her ordinary obedience, something extraordinary happens. Anna meets Jesus! She praises God and tells everyone who she has seen.
When Mary and Joseph had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.
After this extraordinary day at the Temple, Mary and Joseph and Jesus return to their home town. We do not hear many details about Jesus as he grows up. His life would be pretty ordinary like ours. He would learn and study and work. He would be obedient to Mary and Joseph and to God.
We know he becomes strong and is filled with wisdom. Wisdom is another gift of the Holy Spirit. God is with him. Ordinary or extraordinary?
It does not seem like the Holy Family's life is only made up of extraordinary moments. It seems that a lot of the time, maybe even most of the time, their life is ordinary like ours. They are obedient to God. Would they pray? Absolutely. Their life is like ours. We know, though, that in the midst of their ordinary obedience, daily saying yes to the Plan of God, extraordinary things happen. If we, too, daily say yes to God, will extraordinary things happen in the midst of our ordinary obedience?