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Celebration of Candlemas – The Presentation

Readings – Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 84; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40

In a couple of weeks, we will be hearing these words from the Gospel according to St. Mark (12:29-31) 

Jesus said, “The first commandment is this:  Hear, O Israel:
The Lord our God is the only Lord.  Love the Lord your God
with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and
with all your strength.  The second is this: Love your neighbor
as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.

This will be followed by Ten Commandments.  We inhabit a world where three Army reservists are killed and forty injured in Jordan; in a world where there are still over one hundred hostages in Gaza; in a world where over twenty thousand Palestinians are killed; in a world where a teenager kills his high school classmates; in a world where just like the potato famine in Ireland, Central and South Americans stream into our country looking for a future; in a world where the wealthiest nation in the world has people relying on Souper Bowl donations and free food distributions.

Our souls are pierced with grief as the People of God who seek the well-being of all God’s people here and around this planet.  Our souls are pierced with grief, with deep despair.

Today our readings remind us of Jesus, the Light, come into the darkness as a young babe in his mother Mary’s arms.  Forty days following his birth Mary went to Jerusalem to present herself in the temple in Jerusalem, and to present an offering.  The offering of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” was an offering of the poor.  Simeon, “guided by the Holy Spirit” embraced the infant Jesus and proclaimed

Lord, you now have set your servant free
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have see the Savior,
whom you have prepared for all the world to see; 
A Light to enlighten to enlighten the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

Simeon blessed Joseph and Mary and added this:

a sword will pierce your own soul

And it did                                                                                                                 

when the opposition to her son grew among the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the scribes; when she tried and failed to pull him back home and away from danger; when she stood at the foot of the cross and heard the hammer striking the nails; when she saw the lance thrust into his side;  when they took him down and placed him in her arms for the last time; when they rolled the stone across the entrance to the tomb.

Mary knew soul piercing moments just as we know them when God’s ways are torn and thrown away like trash. 

Mary surely could have penned this well-known hymn birthed by slavery:

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve been through
Nobody knows my sorrow
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…

Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down
Oh, Yes, Lord
Sometimes I’m almost to the ground… 

Nobody knows the troubles I’ve been through
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…

In this hymn Mary could have written the key line: Nobody knows but Jesus.

And that’s what we are here to celebrate today.  In the midst of our own souls being pierced with the darkness that is all about, there is the light that continues to endure, that continues to shine.

Glory Hallelujah,  Nobody knows but Jesus.

I had not remembered the words from Hebrews today.

…it is clear he did not come to help angels, but the descendants
of Abraham…he had to become like his brothers and sisters in
every respect…he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is
able to help those who are being tested [now].   

Mary and Jesus, they know how to live through soul piercing times.  And they are walking with us today and every day, today and all our days to come.  In the midst of soul piercing times, we seek health and we seek wholeness as we walk accompanied by Mary and Jesus.

Let us conclude with the words of hymn #69 from Lift Every Voice and Sing.  It is part of our heritage that in challenging times we remember and we hold on to.

I come to the garden alone  
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses 

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever know

I stayed in the garden with Him
Though the night all around me is falling
But He bids me go, though the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling

And He walks with me 
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known                   
None other has ever known. 

Though we are soul pierced, we walk in the Light with the Light.

To conclude we have the words from the Gospel of St. John:

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not over come it
[and the darkness does not over come it,   
 and the darkness will never over come it].        

Amen                                                                                                                         

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