29 Dec 2023 – 5th Day in the Octave of Christmas

29 Dec 2023 – 5th Day in the Octave of Christmas

Optional Memorial: Thomas a Becket (1118-1170) from Cheapside in London, was appointed first as chancellor and then archbishop (1162) by order of his friend, King Henry II. As archbishop he sided with the pope on the respective authority of church and state and was slain in his own cathedral of Canterbury in 1170, for defying Henry’s desire to govern the church by royal decree.

1st Reading: 1 John 2:3-11

The link between love and walking in the light of God.

Beloved: The way we may be sure that we know Jesus is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.

Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. And yet I do write a new commandment to you, which holds true in him and among you, for the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.

Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall. Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Responsorial: Psalm 95: 1-3, 5-6

R./: Let heaven and earth exult in joy!

O sing a new song to the Lord,
sing to the Lord all the earth.
O sing to the Lord, bless his name. (R./)

Proclaim his help day by day,
tell among the nations his glory
and his wonders among all the peoples. (R./)

It is the Lord who made the heavens,
his are majesty and state and power
and splendour in his holy place. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 2:22-35

Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the Temple; Simeon gives praise to God

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Lord, now let your servant go in peace,
for your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you prepared in the sight of all people,
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”


Tuned in to God

St John taught that fidelity and love are the surest ways to walk in God’s presence, as his faithful people. In the Gospel, we are shown Mary and Joseph obeying the Mosaic Law by offering the simple sacrifice in the temple that was expected from poor people: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Two other devout people, whom the propyhets called the Lord’s Anawim. (the poor and lowly, faithful ones) were Simeon and Anna, elderly Jews dedicated to prayer and fasting and regular worship in the temple. Their religious spirit helped them to recognize the child Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Simeon’s joyful salute to the child shows that prayer and contemplation is not wasted. On the contrary, time could not be better spent than in prayer, since charity and respectful recognition arise from an authentic spiritual life. People who pray, like Simeon and Anna, are fully open to the breath of the Spirit. They are the ones best able to recognize signs from God, because they have their antennae tuned to God

Simeon’s prophecy about Mary’s future sorrow was like another divine message to Mary predicting how her Son will accomplish his mission, namely, through pain and rejection. If the first message (the angel Gabriel’s) brought her incredible joy, the message passed on to her by the holy old man Simeon spoke of a costly work of redemption, that would cause suffering to Jesus and to his mother. But looking to the further horizon, Simeon foresees a magnificent outcome, the “rising” of many, into the light of God’s grace.

In contact with the future

When a mother gives birth the family members are agog to admire the new baby and want to hold the child, even if only for a moment, to be in contact with the future. There is something about holding this bundle of new life which is very special. Babies are fascinating and make us think of the future. We focus on them and find it hard to take our eyes off them.

When Mary and Joseph came into the temple with their recently born baby, Jesus, they met Simeon, a devout elderly Jew, who took the child in his arms and blessed God. If every child is fascinating, how much more true is this about the child Jesus? Having held Jesus in his arms and having gazed at him, Simeon was ready to leave this world for the next, “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace.” His beautiful prayer is now part of Compline, the church’s night prayer.

Even if we ourselves cannot hold the child Jesus in our arms, we too recognize and welcome him as did Simeon and Anna. We recognize him in the breaking of bread in the Eucharist, we hear his voice when the gospels are read, and, if we are alert, we see him in each other and in daily encounters. We also look forward to that day beyond this earthly day when we too will see him face to face.

One Comment

  1. Very rich reflection.

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