THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD, 2020
Readings: 1st- Mal. 3:1-4; 2nd- Heb. 2:14-18; Gospel- Lk. 2:22-40
THE REAL ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS
The excitement in today’s readings lies in the invitation to encounter God in a unique manner. Starting with what the prophet Malachi says, “Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare a way before me” (Mal. 3:1), we find ourselves in a wonderful relationship that makes us messengers by our Christian calling. It is simple but also complex at the same time. Simple, because being a messenger means having a message to deliver. Complex, because we are taken into the realm of the divine; we are messengers for the Lord. The wonderful news is that this invitation offers us the special privilege to personally encounter God. Imagine how compelling it is, that God is employing you into his service. Do you want to know how that feels? Let’s hear what the prophet says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (Is. 52:7). How does this encounter come about?
Interestingly, God initiates the encounter by himself. He intends that his faithful ones should experience the gift of Christ his Son and be saved. The second reading of today confirms it this way, “Since the children share in the blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them” (Heb. 2:14). The two natures of Jesus are presented for us here: his divine nature and his human nature. Whereas Jesus intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father (divine nature), his human nature makes this encounter real in a unique way. Jesus shares in our “blood and flesh,” embraces our human limitations and champions the course for us to overcome those limitations. He does not just give us the opportunity, rather He is our Opportunity to encounter God in a real way. Jesus makes the encounter with God radically real and amazing; He is the high priest, merciful and faithful who appears before God to expiate our sins.
In the gospel, we see Simeon and Anna experience this reality, the joy of beholding the infant Jesus. Their faithfulness and devoutness pay off. Their commitment to the gospel is evident as they embrace the light of God in Christ Jesus. This joy leads Simeon to exclaim, “Now, Master, you let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation.” Simeon’s canticle has both personal and universal implications. First, he thanks God for the privilege granted him as an individual. At the same time, Simeon prophesies that this light would reach to everyone as it reveals God’s love beyond human imagination. God’s plan is for all peoples: “a light for the revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” Like Simeon, God invites us to a special encounter with him, an authentic living out of the Gospel which means experiencing Jesus in a way that radically changes us. What does this look like?
This weekend, and for the next two weekends, we will be conducting the Archdiocesan Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries, through which our parish has the opportunity to be an integral part of the work of the local Church in allowing others to truly encounter the saving presence and work of the Lord. Each year, thousands of our brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Baltimore are blessed to experience Christ’s love and power through ministries that are made possible by our faithful support.
This year, our parish goal is $90,000. 00. I know we can do this; but even more than the dollar amount, our goal as your priest in support of our pastor is to see more and more of our parish families participating in this appeal. Last year, we pledged $73,000 on the strength of 327 individual gifts. Even if you cannot make a huge gift, we can all make something; therefore, I stand here today to passionately urge you to consider making a pledge next weekend when we conduct our in-pew process. The good news is that our parish also benefits, receiving 25% of everything we raise up to the goal, and 50% of anything over and above that goal. Imagine what we could do with that blessing!
Our generous support goes to allow twenty-four ministries of our local Church to touch the lives of countless people right here in Baltimore and Maryland. For example, our charity is experienced by the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, which helps young people and their families heal from the pain of abusive homes and relationships; we assist our poor neighbors through the work of the St. Vincent DePaul Society of Baltimore; we bring Christ’s love and presence to men and women in prison, we reach out to our sister parish of Saint Laurent in Haiti who continuously cry for our help, and we bring comfort and healing to those in hospitals through the work of our dedicated Chaplains; we put our money where our mouth is in our strong support of crisis pregnancy centers, which help frightened mother and families to provide a stable, loving home for their child.
With these and many other ministries, we extend Christ’s presence in our community – just like Simeon and Anna, who encountered Jesus in the Temple and then took that transforming experience and shared it with everyone who had been awaiting God’s response to their prayers. So many of our neighbors, friends, and brothers and sisters are also awaiting that encounter with Jesus, and we can help them. Our Church – our parish – must be a place where that encounter is real; and we must be the people who are touched first by Christ here, in our temple, so that we can be the answer to their prayers as we share Christ with those broken, and lost. In this encounter we demonstrate that we form a great mission as members of Christ’s mystical body here in Glen Burnie. We become transformed like Simeon because our eyes have seen God’s salvation. We contemplate God’s love and favors like Anna in thanksgiving for the privilege given to us to be his messenger here on earth.
May this encounter with Jesus be real in our lives and lead us to our ultimate redemption at the end of time.