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Sunday, February 16, 2014

THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD – 2 FEBRUARY 2014



Shared Homily Starter


First Reading:            Malachi 3:1-4
Second Reading:       Hebrews 2:10-18
Gospel:                       Luke 2:22-40


One could look at today’s Gospel as suggesting that only a favoured few can perceive Jesus’ true nature and mission.  You might be tempted to think that only people who are able to perceive Jesus as a light for God’s revelation to the world are those who are righteous and devout like Simeon and those who fast and pray night and day like Anna. 

Looking at the Gospel that way is limiting in several respects.  It limits Jesus experience as a human being; it limits his mission as God’s messenger; and it limits our ability to see the depths of God’s love for us.  As a human being, we can infer from the Gospel that Jesus had to grow into strength and wisdom, just like us.  He had to learn who, he really was.  His mission is to teach us who and whose we really are.  

All three readings make clear that he didn’t come for the perfect but for the imperfect.  What need does pure gold or silver need of refining?  He didn’t come to help angels but the descendants of Abraham and to be a light of revelation to the Gentiles. 

Paul says, “He had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God…”  Jesus’ presentation at the temple to be purified signifies for us that, although he is God’s divine messenger, he is willing to undergo purification, just like us whom he calls his sisters and brothers.  Further, Francis tells us, that when we embrace our humanity, our suffering, limitation, vulnerability and weakness, we follow in the footsteps of Christ.[1]  Jesus Christ who is God, so loved us that he took on our human condition so that we might come to know the God. 

One could say that Jesus is our fuller and his life, teachings, death and resurrection are his fullers’ soap.

A fuller was someone who cleaned and thickened or made full freshly-woven woollen cloth. The process involved cleaning, bleaching, wetting and beating the fibres to a consistent and desirable condition.  Fuller's soap was an alkali made from plant ashes which [the fuller] …used to clean and full new cloth.[2]

Unlike the fuller who uses cleaning, bleaching, wetting and beating the cloth to make it full, Jesus as fuller, came to teach us compassion, that is, to teach us to help each other through our suffering and to imitate him as emissaries of God’s love. 

Jesus is the exemplar of God’s eternal and constant siding with the outcasts and therefore the inevitable encounter with the ridicule, persecution and death that comes with it.[3]  But that is not the end of the story, the resurrection is a promise from God that life and love and joy and health and peace and beauty are stronger than their opposites ─ if we will help make it so, if we will follow the way of Jesus.[4]  Jesus showed us that we are to be the hands, feet and shoulders of God to our neighbours who are suffering.  We know from the Gospels that the compassion that Jesus teaches entails action.  Jesus shows us that in the face of suffering God is with us and acts through us. 

Those who are righteous and devout like Simeon, those who fast and pray night and day like Anna, and all of us, with all our imperfections are all inheritors of the fruits of Jesus mission.  Our job as Christians is to show our acceptance and appreciation of Jesus’ love and teaching in how we treat each other and all our relations, that is, how we treat all that God created.
 


[1]               Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap., Regis J. and Brady, O.F.M., Ignatius. 1982. Francis and Clare:  The Complete Works. New York:  Paulist Press, p. 68
[2] "What is fullers' soap anyway?" The Muddle in the Middle (blog), April 17, 2012. http://themuddleinthemiddle.blogspot.ca/2012/04/what-is-fullers-soap-anyway.html (accessed January 30, 2014).
[3] (2001). Life abundant: rethinking theology and economy for a planet in peril. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, p. 179
[4] Ibid.

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