Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the temple, or as some may remember, Candle Mass Day. We recall today the moment Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple in keeping with the tradition of Israel of purification. As the readings today recall, it is the fulfilment of yet one more promise of God: And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, (Malachi 3:1-4).
The arrival of the Christ child in the temple is a marvelous revelation of not only the promise of God, but the glory and splendor of God. The words of the prophet Simeon in today’s Gospel proclaims this Light and Glory:
Master, now you let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32)
But the phrase from today’s feast marking yet another moment in the life of our Savior that caught my attention is one that I’ve never understood as well as today’s grace provides. Simeon goes on in prophetic language in regards to the life and ministry of Jesus: Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted…
Surely, the “fall” does speak to any philosophy or government that does not acknowledge the Truth of Jesus Christ. But, more than that, it seems to speak to the basic human experience of every person. The “destiny” of Jesus is to bring all of us into the life of God, to restore what was lost through sin, to transform what has lost its original beauty, to redeem and restore the lost children of Israel (all humanity) to the one family of God.
This “fall” is the experience of “surrendering to God”. It is one of the first steps in conversion; to bend the knee at the name of Jesus; to acknowledge Him as the “stumbling block” to all my false hopes and misguided priorities.
But the “fall” in Jesus is always a part of the “rising”, for He comes to “lift us up” to the face of God. By the grace of God, Simeon foresaw all of this the moment the Glory of the Lord filled the temple at the arrival of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Jesus is the “sign of contradiction” we continue to preach today in a culture that resists His name, presence and Truth. He gives us the grace to speak and witness to Him and to God’s Kingdom, because we live no longer for ourselves or for the honor of others. We live only for Him. We live in Him. We live through Him for the building up of God’s Kingdom. Today, we pray that all that resists this Kingdom of God may “fall”, only to rise again in the fullness of God’s vision for His people.