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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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Joan of Arc: 
		<p>Burned at the stake as a heretic after a politically-motivated trial, Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.</p>
		<p>Born of a fairly well-to-do peasant couple in Domremy-Greux (southeast of Paris), Joan was only 12 when she experienced a vision and heard voices that she later identified as Sts. Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch.</p>
		<p>During the Hundred Years War, she led French troops against the English and recaptured the cities of Orléans and Troyes. This enabled Charles VII to be crowned as king in Reims in 1429. Captured near Compiegne the following year, she was sold to the English and placed on trial for heresy and witchcraft. Professors at the University of Paris supported Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvis, the judge at her trial; Cardinal Henry Beaufort of Winchester, England, participated in the questioning of Joan in prison. In the end, she was condemned for wearing men's clothes. The English resented France's military success–to which Joan contributed. </p>
		<p>On this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake in Rouen, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine River. A second Church trial 25 years later nullified the earlier verdict, which was reached under political pressure.</p>
		<p>Remembered by most people for her military exploits, Joan had a great love for the sacraments, which strengthened her compassion toward the poor. Popular devotion to her increased greatly in 19th-century France and later among French soldiers during World War I. Theologian George Tavard writes that her life "offers a perfect example of the conjunction of contemplation and action" because her spiritual insight is that there should be a "unity of heaven and earth."</p>
		<p>Joan of Arc has been the subject of many books, plays, operas, and movies. </p>
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