Today we hear a very familiar Gospel passage, the one recalling when Mary and Joseph take the Christ child to the Temple in order to fulfill the mandate of the law. Even though they knew their child was the messiah who had been conceived through the Holy Spirit and not by normal means, they did not sense that they were above the law. They submitted with their full free will, and made the offering of the poor.
There in the hustle and bustle of the Temple, the only one who recognized the Christ child was Simeon and Anna.
You can almost see this old man’s eyes light up with joy as he sees Mary and Joseph bringing the tiny infant to him. If you want a slight sense of this, invite Msgr Saylor to breakfast at the Waffle Shop! [He is our faithful pastor emeritus, who loves a local restaurant called the waffle shop] Somehow by a special grace Simeon is able to perceive that this family is different than other families, even though they are very normal looking. He has been waiting his entire life for this moment, and has been preparing very carefully. Saint Luke writes that “He came in the Spirit into the temple”. He then goes on to prophesy that Jesus would be “destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted”.
Our Lord calls us each of us, because of baptism, to be prepared like Simeon. This doesn’t just happen. We must struggle to live faithful to Christ. Our whole lives must be marked by prayer, penance, constant conversion, and acts of service and love to those around us. Simeon was old, but as He saw the Christ child, his inner youth came forth.
Saint Bede notes that “The old man received the infant Christ, to convey thereby that this world, now worn out as it were with old age, should return to the childlike innocence of the Christian life.”
Sin makes you old. Sin makes me old. It seems all the tabloids in the store or ads everywhere espouse all the secrets to remaining young forever: remove wrinkles! Get rid of that belly! Get a nice thick head of hair! We even hear about explorers seeking out the fountain of youth! Well, the real fountain of youth is found right here at the altar of God. If we spend our lives like Simeon, always preparing, we will not miss any chance to grow in Holiness and prepare for the final encounter with our Lord who will judge us, as he is one who stands “for the fall and rise of many”.
Confession, confession, confession. We are all sinners who need our Lord’s help, and he gives us this powerful Sacrament to receive his forgiveness and his grace to overcome our weaknesses. Old age doesn’t come because we get all wrinkled and bent over. Old age comes from sin. If we go frequently to confession, we will be like Simeon: we will be well disposed to receive and recognize our Lord hidden in the Eucharist. Confession is not just for mortal sin.
As we walk along, we will slowly return to that childlike innocence that our Lord wants us to have. Then we can heed the words of Benedict XVI:
“Today, especially in the more developed societies, we live in a condition often marked by a radical plurality, by the progressive marginalization of religion in the public sphere and by relativism which touches the fundamental values. This demands that our Christian witness be luminous and consistent.” Benedict XVI
Let the conversion of the world begin in our hearts with a great devotion to confession and the Eucharist, always close to the Holy Family.