The Christmas/New Year/Epiphany cycle has ended… and we have entered into what the Liturgical Cycle calls "Ordinary Time" - the time which celebrates the beginning of Christ's mission, His call of His disciples, the unfolding of His message of Peace… throughout this liturgical season, we will recall Christ's many miracles, and how He touched the lives and hearts of all those He met… all of this leading up to the Season of Lent and the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of our Redemption. There is nothing "ordinary" about this.
Every year we remember this mission: in Scripture, in Liturgy, and in Prayer. Every year we renew our commitment to this mission and proclaim our belief in Him gives and sustains our lives. This year is no different.
But just as we begin this journey with Jesus, we are again presented with a Gospel passage that recounts an event of His Infancy. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and we hear yet another proclamation of who this child is and what he is meant to become.
The Feast of the Presentation is an ancient one and was celebrated in the East as early as the fourth century. It came to be celebrated in Rome at the end of the seventh century and spread through the Western Church from there. It is a feast of light. Simeon proclaims that Christ is the true light of the world - a light of revelation to the Gentiles… and we, as his followers, ought to be bringing his light into the many dark corners we find around us today.
Despite the many excellent values promoted by our present day society there are also movements and ideologies whose sole purpose seems to stamp out the light. We live in a troubled world where hope has become dimmed, almost forcing us to retreat within ourselves for self-preservation. This is a society that needs Christ. This is a society that needs to experience the light of revelation.
Our task is to bring light to these dark corners, to proclaim Christ's Gospel of justice, love and peace.
After all these centuries since that child of Mary and Joseph met Simeon and Anna, we still find it very difficult to be hopeful about the world and the Church. As one priest put it: "We have been chastened by violence in the world and infidelity in the Church. And yet that child of hope is just as young and bright-eyed as he was on that first visit to the temple. This reminds us that our hope is based on God's promises and not on human frailty."
What we celebrate today is an extraordinary meeting of God with God - the Child Jesus is presented to God by His parents - and because of that encounter, we also celebrate the meeting between God and mankind.
The Scriptures and Liturgies of "Ordinary Time" remind us of the ongoing implications of our baptism: that moment when God seized each one of us, made us His own in a special way, anointed us with His Spirit, and commissioned us to continue the mission of Jesus. This year should again be a time when we are seized by God, anointed by the Spirit, declared to be His beloved - to be light - to bring justice - to heal the bruised - to help keep flickering lights from going out....
We are not merely passive observers as Jesus begins His journey; we are not just listening to a good story. We are disciples, followers, imitators - seeking opportunities each day to be light-bearers, to heal the wounded, to act against injustice, to use our power to set others free, to be at all times and in all circumstances peace-makers. Living that way - day by day - we can be assured that God continues to let His favor rest on us, and identify us as His beloved, His anointed, His holy ones.
This is Christ's ministry. This is our ministry. And ministry, at its deepest level, means "to be present" to others, not just "serving others." Ministry means to care for others enough that you are willing to "be with" them, to continue paying attention to them.
Our God is overwhelming in His generosity, rich in His mercy and faithful to His promises. And now is the time for us to unify and strengthen community, a time for forgiveness, renewal and celebration - a time to let our voices be heard over the drums of war and the culture of death.
If we are not profoundly changed and motivated more strongly to further His mission - if all remains "business as usual" - then this truly remains "Ordinary Time."