2 February 2007: Presentation of the Lord
Luke 2, 27-35: The Prophecy of Simeon
The announcement of Simeon came to Mary unexpectedly and it surprised her. Simeon’s announcement was harsh news, like the first time a patient hears that he has cancer. It is the feeling that we will suffer in some way, but though we may feel we don’t deserve it – after all, we fulfill our obligations and we have been good to others – but it comes anyway. These announcements shock, surprise and remove us from our comfort zones and it blazes our lives with sorrow, pain and confusion.
Many of us have somehow experienced this: the diagnosis of a terminal illness, the letter ending a relationship, the memorandum that marks work termination, a family member revealing a dark secret, the child in his teens declaring a decision contrary to a parent’s dream. I have my own: the radio announcement that my father died when I was in the hinterlands of Bukidnon, the phone call that my mom was in the hospital and the exam results that I failed. These experiences come from an external source.
At other times, they come internally too. Our intuition, dreams and consciences are voices that can give us messages of a future sorrow. A friend of mine was uneasy one day, and couldn’t put her mind in the work she was doing. She felt something was wrong and she could not put a finger on it. Later during that day, her boyfriend had an accident. They said that when two people genuinely love each other, they feel what the other is feeling even without a word, even at a distance. In all of these, there is no way for us to prepare.
When we experience these bad news, we become aware that our happiness is fleeting, our security is delicate and fragile, and life can make us vulnerable and weak. We are faced with the truth that life is not within our control, despite the many techniques we employ to get a hold on it. Often, the feeling is a mixture of fear, anger, disbelief, sadness, helplessness and emptiness. Often we are shocked and we could not believe it. When my father died, I did not know what I was feeling. I went through the funeral numb — as the eldest, I instantly became the “father of the family”. During the entire wake, I was the manager; I was not the “son”. It took me weeks and months, before the reality sank, before I really began to mourn my father’s death.
In the film, Good Will Hunting, the wise therapist says to Bill, the young man who was hurting: “Bad things draw our attention to the good things we’ve overlooked.” When an event predicts future sorrow and confusion to us, suddenly the people who matter to us becomes more precious. An uncle of mine who had a mentally-challenged son once said to me, that it was his son who made the family whole. When we become depressed and empty, we yearn for the joy we have taken for granted. When someone whom we love leaves us, whether in a temporary goodbye, a re-location, a re-assignment or death, we suddenly realize how much we love them, and we regret that we have not spent time with them.
Thus, when an announcement like Simeon’s come to our lives, they are warning calls to attend to it right away. It is a call to appreciate life, because it is fleeting; to affirm and love those who are precious to us, because time passes. Beyond the shocking news and the sorrowful consequence comes the invitation to be grateful and happy for what we already have, and to treasure them. I believe when Mary stood at the foot of the cross sharing in Jesus’ suffering, it is the memory of being together that holds them close, not giving up hope, and standing stronger than ever. Thus the celebration of the Presentation of the Lord is a celebration of the precious things we value: love and life! We give back to the Lord what He himself has given us; but with some improvements on the gift because it contains our contributions to its growth. When we present them to the Lord, we present them with gratitude and surrender. I would like to believe that the candles symbolize the light these gifts offer when we are in darkness; ultimately, the light of these candles are reminders of the greatest Light that could dispel the darkest of all nights.