Since I finished my undergraduate degree almost nine years ago, I have moved a lot. Across four cities, seven apartments, and six excellent Thai restaurants, my daily life has taken a multitude of shapes and very little has been consistent. The lone constant amidst these variables has been my presence in a pew of a Catholic church on Sunday evenings. At Sacred Heart in Palm Desert, St. Ignatius in Boston, St. Lawrence in Tampa, and Holy Trinity in DC, I have shown up each Sunday afternoon, often in various states of disrepair both physical and emotional but nonetheless present. Even when I don’t particularly feel called to worship, I work my way to the mass, to the community, to the ritual.
The Presentation of the Lord is a rich feast that can be explored through so many different angles, but today I offer you this simple consideration. This feast is a celebration of faith practice, the community created by shared belief, and the consistency and constancy created within places of worship. Each figure in this narrative enters the temple for different reasons. Simeon comes in response to a call from the Holy Spirit. Anna, a widow alone in the world, prays day and night. Joseph and Mary bring Jesus “in accordance with the dictates of the law of the Lord.” The reasons for their presence may be diverse, but their presence is what matters. Through their shared presence in sacred space, Simeon can attest to Jesus’s future as the salvation of Israel, Anna can share the good news of the child “to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem,” and Joseph and Mary can be “amazed at what was said to them.” None of this would have been possible had they not been present.
It's not hard to imagine why each of these figures might not want to enter their place of worship. Simeon has been waiting and waiting and waiting for a revelation. Anna only had seven years with her husband before living as a widow until the age of 84; that sounds a lonely life. Joseph and Mary are recovering from a grueling trek to Bethlehem where they delivered a child in a stable. I’m almost positive they would have preferred to continue quietly settling into parenthood! However, rather than managing their problems on their own terms, each of these people, in spite of their burdens and challenges, bring themselves to the temple and thus encounter God’s saving grace. May each of us have the strength and courage to bring our lives to the Lord, and may our faith communities reveal to us God’s grace, peace, and joy.