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Bible Reflections View Comments

In the Right Place at the Right Time
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, February 2, 2014
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February 2 is the much-ballyhooed Groundhog Day. In Wisconsin, where I grew up, if we got to see Spring six weeks from this date (which is, in fact, the first day of spring on the calendar), it was an early spring indeed, terrified rodent or not.

That groundhog afraid of his own shadow might be a good mascot for us in these dreary February days, though. Far too often we act as though there’s a monster under the bed, something in the dark that’s waiting to pounce on us. We wake up from our sleepy lives and as soon as we’re confronted with something new and perhaps startling, we run back to our caves. We think we must have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and we scurry back to where we’re comfortable, even if it’s a dark, underground den.

For the past few Sundays we’ve heard accounts of Jesus calling his first followers. We might be feeling exhilarated by that challenge, or we might be feeling not quite up to the task. Today, the liturgical calendar takes us back to the Christmas season with the feast of the presentation of the Lord. But if we think it’s going to be time to bask once again in the soft glow of Christmas lights, then we need to take another look at the Gospel reading.

While the infant Jesus is recognized as the promised messenger of salvation, the revelation also brings with it the promise of discord and contradiction. Salvation isn’t going to be a cozy retreat. Simeon prophesies that a sword will pierce Mary’s heart. He also says the thoughts of many will be laid bare.

While this feast has its somber moments, however, it is celebrated as a feast of light and often referred to as Candlemas. In times past, the year’s supply of candles were blessed on this feast. We include it among the joyful mysteries of the rosary.

Simeon and Anna both seem to be well-known in the Temple precincts. You know people in your own parish who are always around. They attend daily Mass and all the extra events in the parish. They’ve been part of the parish for as long as most people can recall. They keep the faith and their very presence is part of handing on the faith to new generations. They’ve been around long enough to know that all life is a mix of darkness and light, but they believe the light always prevails— no need to run from its rays.

When these two holy people see Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus, they recognize the divine presence and herald the good news. Luke tells us that both of them proclaim prophetic words about this child. They were truly in the right place at the right time. But I suspect they would also proclaim the wonder of all the infants being brought to the Temple to be presented to God. Yes, Jesus was special, but each child was part of the Chosen People. Jesus was being claimed and redeemed in this ritual presentation. In the same way, each child brought to our churches for Baptism increases our family of faith. And, like Simeon and Anna, we welcome those children and proclaim the wonder of their lives as they’re presented to God.

At the end of our lives, we will be brought forth once more to be presented to God in the funeral Mass of the Resurrection. We will be welcomed into eternity with wonder and awe. What we do between those two presentations will determine how much we ourselves are in the right place at the right time.


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Conversion of St. Paul: Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “...entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior. 
<p>One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing. </p><p>From then on, his only work was to “present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29). “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a). </p><p>Paul’s life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ’s victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new. </p><p>So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.</p> American Catholic Blog If you’re confused as to why God would die for you, you either need to rethink your vision of His mercy or of your own worth.

 
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