Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
In today’s post-Christmas Gospel reading we find the Holy Family, Mary, Joseph and Jesus visiting the temple to perform the traditional Jewish rituals after a child is born. They meet an old woman and an old man who, because they are full of the Holy Spirit, recognize Jesus for Who He is. The man, Simeon proclaims: ” …for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” And there is great joy.
But then Simeon says something to Mary that tinges that joy with sorrow: “And you yourself a sword will pierce,” foretelling Mary’s accompaniment of her Son through His ministry, suffering and death on the Cross.
The other two readings for today give us insights into outcomes of suffering. In the first reading from Malachi the writer speaks of purification, using the metaphor of metal being refined and shaped within a hot fire. And in the second reading from Hebrews, we hear that “Because he himself (Jesus) was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”
Suffering is a part of human life. Some suffering is the discomfort, anxiety, and grief we feel as we move through life’s developmental stages, letting go of one thing to embrace another. Sometimes there are huge losses caused by betrayal or death.
St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, encourages us by way of his many letters: “Oh, how I desire that you know how to be constant in suffering the pressures, ordeals, and trials so necessary to purify the spirit that it may be reborn at every moment in Christ Jesus in the most pure faith and holy love! But the point is you must know how to endure such pressures in silence and in hope.”
Like Mary, our Mother of Sorrows, we know that suffering never has the last word, as long as we stay in communion with Jesus and endure in hope.
Patty Gillis is a retired Pastoral Minister. She served on the Board of Directors at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit. She is currently a member of the Laudato Si Vision Fulfillment Team and the Passionist Solidarity Network.