Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Simeon and Anna's example of holiness: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, December 30th, 2014 (6th day of Christmas)

(Listen to this homily here).

            Every one of us is called to holiness—to be set apart from the world.  St. John, in his first letter, describes such a call.  Note how he addresses children, fathers, young men, children, fathers, young men—this is a sign of the universality of this call as he writes to various age groups.
            John speaks about what it means to be holy: “Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  We are called to live in the world, but not be of it—to be set apart for God.
            Now for the Gospel—this is the third day in a row we have heard the same narrative about the presentation of Jesus in the temple from Luke 2.  We have now listened to the accounts of Simeon and Anna twice.  Both understood that the baby Jesus was the Savior.  Remember the words of Simeon from yesterday and Sunday?  Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled.  My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”  Anna “…gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”
            Here is a question for you—how did Simeon and Anna know Jesus was the Christ?  Have you ever thought about that?  The fact is that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were not the only family with a little one in the temple—there may have been many families presenting their child to the Lord.  When we look at sacred art, Jesus often has a halo around his head—sometimes Mary does as well.  Well they didn’t have that gold orb when they were in the temple.  They were not walking around translucently or holding a poster!  How, then, did these two individuals perceive that God was in their midst under the appearance of a baby?
            Well, Simeon and Anna were both holy.  Remember that Anna, “…never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.”  Yesterday we were reminded that Simeon “…was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”  Both of these mysterious figures were set apart, living lives completely for God.  Because of this their vision changed as they saw with eyes of faith.  They perceived what others milling in the temple did not.
            As we grow closer to God, a similar thing happens.  The closer we get to Jesus, the more our thoughts, actions, decisions and outlook of life changes.  We see God more in others, especially in the poor, hungry, homeless and destitute.  We see Him in nature and in our own hearts as our eyes of faith become sharper.  We seek to live in the world but not of it.
            As we continue to celebrate the octave of Christmas, may we allow God to separate us from the world and from sin.  May we take small, concrete steps to draw closer to God and so love Him with all our heart, mind and soul.

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