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Friday, January 31, 2014

LIKE US IN ALL; LIGHT FOR US ALL!


The Presentation of the Lord (A)
February 2, 2014

LIKE US IN ALL; LIGHT FOR US ALL!

It’s Candlemas today … Candelaria in our Pinoy popular religious culture. People, a dwindling few admittedly, will bring candles today to have them blessed. For some those blessed candles will be used to light up their little altars at home as they pray. For some others, they will be put away, kept in reserve for some unplanned and unforeseen affair of a religious nature.

But my task is not to talk about candles. People seldom make use of them now, as rechargeable and solar lamps seem to flood the market. Why, even Churches now seldom make use of real candles with wax as sancturay lamps. Paraffin oil is now more like it for most of them.

My task is not to talk today about candles because candles are not the focus of today’s feast, but what the candles stand for.

But first, a word on the three readings, in the hope that it can shed light on the issue of LIGHT which is what Candelaria (Candlemas) is all about.

First, Malachi the prophet is obscure in many ways, but clear in a specific way. He is definitely clear about one thing that juts out like a bright incandescent bulb on a moonless, dark, night in a typhoon-ravaged place where the promised electrical power remains … well, an unfulfilled promise – the prophecy that the promised Messiah would one day “come to the temple of the Lord.”

The clarity of that prophecy was made even clearer by the Gospel report of Luke, the careful writer with a scientific flair for important details. The parents, Mary and Joseph, did what was prescribed by the Law and brought the child Jesus “to present him to the Lord,” and for them to be purified, particularly the mother whose womb was opened by giving birth to a male child.

Mary and Joseph did what was prescribed and thus the predictable thing. They presented him to the Lord. And this was where and when the unexpected and the unpredictable happened. Malachi was apparently not alone in prophesying something important for the people of God. Some other guy, who was not expected to be one, did what no one predicted and expected. He prophesied.

But I am getting ahead of the story …

The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus in most ordinary terms. He was like us in all things. He was “blood and flesh.” “He had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God.”

He was like us in all things … exactly like you and me, and the hordes of honorables this country loves to boast of, along with the dishonorables that this same country is ashamed of, both titles belonging, sadly, to the very same names and faces that mainstream media loves to adulate.

But great things are fashioned by God out of ordinary mortals, made of ordinary human stuff. David … Jeremiah … Elizabeth … Zechariah … Joseph the carpenter … Mary the unknown lass prior to the annunciation … There was that old man, Simeon by name. Well, to start with, he was old. Do I hear useless and irrelevant? Maybe! But not for God! Hey, the Holy Spirit who sent the archangel to an ordinary unknown girl knew whom to tap and whom to make use of. “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.”

This old man, probably unable to carry even his own weight, drew strength from his belief and conviction and “took him into his arms and blessed God.”

Yes, the old man carried the boy Jesus and prayed a prayer of praise and happy good-bye: “You may now let your servant go in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.”

The child, like unto us in all things, was then revealed to be LIGHT FOR US ALL IN EVERY WAY – “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

Hold on to your simple seemingly meaningless candles, folks! It’s not about the candles, but about what they stand for. They stand for LIGHT, for Christ the Light of all nations, the light of our salvation, the light that pierced through the darkness, no matter how ordinary, how simple, how powerless and position-less; no matter how weak, how insignificant and lowly.

It took an obscure Malachi to forewarn people about him. It took a weak, decrepit old man made strong and solid by his faith to see behind the lowliness and simplicity and powerlessness of the bundle of emerging salvation that the child was. It took one with a powerful interior light of faith to see the incipient, unfolding light that the child was becoming for all men and women of good will, for all the world who lived in darkness.

Some famous writer cautioned us never to sweat the small stuff. Simeon, Malachi, and the letter writer to the Hebrews all tell us never to underestimate the seemingly small and insignificant. Today, be attentive to small stuff like candles. Hold them high. Carry them. Present them to the Church and to the Lord. Have them blessed. But in the process, remember … They stand for something higher. They stand for the LIGHT that we all long for, surrounded as we all are by the darkness of unbelief and sin.

Today is Candlemas … Candelaria … the day we remember the presentation of the Lord. But with the presentation of the Lord came the promised Light, whose mission was “to expiate the sins of the people.”

Father,  thank you for sending us your Son. His coming brought us the promised salvation. Thank you for making Him like us in all things, but most of all, thank you for making Him the LIGHT of us all, in all things.

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