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Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Mal 3:1-4; PS 24:7, 8, 9, 10; HEB 2:14-18; LK 2:22-40

January 29, 2014

A few years ago, the Washington Post conducted an experiment in a Metro station in the nation's capitol. During morning rush hour, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell, dressed in jeans, a tee shirt, and a baseball cap, played six exquisite classical pieces on his rare Stradivarius for 45-minutes. More than one thousand people rushed past him; only seven stopped to listen. A few tossed coins into his violin case. One of the conclusions from the experiment was that people were too busy and preoccupied to notice genius right in front of them.

In today's Gospel, when Joseph and Mary take the newborn Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, it is no accident that the prophets Anna and Simeon notice and recognize the extraordinary gift of God in front of their eyes. Both had been watching and waiting---in Anna's case for eighty-four years! (The Greek text can also be read that she was eighty-four years old; either way, Luke is emphasizing her long years of faithfulness.) Anna has been keeping vigil for the one who would be the "redemption" of Jerusalem, the one who would liberate God's people from all that holds them bound. Simeon, likewise, has been awaiting the "consolation of Israel," and exclaims with delight when he recognizes divine salvation, a light for all people, in the child he wraps in his arms.

Just as the commuters who rushed by thought Joshua Bell was just another street musician, many in the temple that day in Jerusalem likely overlooked the genius of God's gift before their eyes. Anna, though, had been fasting and praying, worshiping night and day, never leaving the temple. Simeon was righteous and devout, constantly attuning himself to the Spirit's lead. Their long years of preparation enabled them to recognize God's extraordinary presence in the unlikely guise of a child from Nazareth.

In the experiment with Joshua Bell, one astounding thing was that every single time that a child walked past she or he tried to stop and listen, but was pulled away by a hurried adult. Today's Gospel invites us to pause and recognize God's saving presence as it confronts us daily, sometimes in the disguise of ordinariness. Such an ability can be cultivated, as by Anna and Simeon, with prayer, fasting, faithful presence, and actively seeking of the Spirit's guidance, so as to become as open and unencumbered as a child. As prophets, Simeon and Anna do not keep this good news to themselves, but proclaim it to all. With whom will you share the saving grace that your eyes see today?

Sr. Barbara Reid, OP
Vice-President and Academic Dean
Professor of New Testament Studies

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