First Reading: 1 John 2:3-11
And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says “I know him” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling. But he who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 96:1-6
O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols; but the LORD made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Gospel: Luke 2:22-35
And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”
Dear Simeon. A man of great faith. He had waited his entire life, trusting that he would see the Lord’s Christ. What a special delight in his heart. Any day of particular suffering? He could dip into that well in his heart, that well that held the secret sweet water of this knowledge. And when it happens, he is happy to die for he has seen the salvation of all peoples, a light for the Gentiles, and the glory for the Israelites.
And Our Lady. Her soul pierced by a sword. What did that mean for her? Here she and Saint Joseph knew that their son was the Messiah, Savior, and Christ. But He was also a tiny baby human going to the temple for presentation as thousands upon thousands had before Him. She undoubtedly knew the rituals that would entail when they arrived. She had perhaps heard from her own mother, or cousin. So when it happened, despite knowing her son was God’s Son, she marveled at what was said about Him. It seems like the beginning of a lifetime of stabbing sorrow through the joy of parenting God. At every turn, those first thirty years, knowing He would die brutally. Knowing she would not only bury her son, but that He would rise again.
I look at my little seven month old, our third. I think, dear God, never take him from me. Let me die first, before any of my children. Don’t give me that cross that several of my friends have borne. Mary learned her son would not only be the Savior of the Jews, but that He’s here for everyone, and everyone has access to His salvific act of death and resurrection. It is right here in front of us. He came for us all. We get to choose to partake in His suffering and death, as we have just passed the Advent season and are already eye-balling Lent through a side glance.
What did it mean that her soul was pierced by a sword? Did she know what it would entail to lose Him? How she would have to endure watching him go through three years of difficult and challenging ministry, to apparently end in crucifixion? How much was revealed to her about His resurrection ahead of time? Still she bore all these things in her heart. Can we not embrace our suffering, our hard work day, our marital strife, our demanding families and ministries? Look what Simeon revealed to her and she endured and accepted willingly!
Lord, this day, give me the heart of Your mother. May I have a heart pierced with sorrow when I behold Your suffering, and offer my own up.
Nell O’Leary is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom to three lovelies. She and her husband live in the great city of Saint Paul. You can find out more about her here.