The other day I was reading about an entertainer who has had a prolonged battle with addiction, even to the point of attempting to take her life. She said that she was trying to find a sense of more in life, of peace and the fullness of life. She said she didn’t realize it at the time, but she was really searching for God, even if, in all the wrong places. Though with perhaps less extremes, I think we can all relate to what she is saying. We feel a desire that reaches out for something more. It’s as if we are reaching for something but we not exactly sure what or where it is. But we’re not grasping at “thin air,” we are grasping and reaching for Him. For our God, for our Father. And so the words of the Psalm reverberate within our hearts - “Lift up your heads, O Gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.”
This Sunday we have the passage from Luke’s Gospel that describes the Presentation in the Temple. We see Mary and Joseph bring the baby Jesus to present him to God. In the temple there is both Simeon and Anna. Simeon and Anna have sought and longed for the coming of the Messiah. Both praise God when they see the baby Jesus. Simeon takes the baby in his arms and Anna speaks about the redemption of Jerusalem. On seeing the Lord, the “ancient doors” of their hearts were opened wide to receive the Lord into their lives. We too want to open wide the doors of our hearts to Him. And yet, at least for myself, despite my desire to open my heart, I can keep my foot on the door, ensuring it remain closed. There must be a reason why we seem to hesitate in letting the door be “opened wide.” The only reason that makes sense to me is that we are unsure what will happen if we let it be “opened wide.” We may long for something more, but we sure don’t want to put in jeopardy that which we already have or know. So the foot comes down and we keep it somewhat closed. But there is an answer to our hesitation, reluctance and uncertainty. It is found in the words of Simeon to Mary.
Simeon told Mary that “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” These words, spoken so near to Jesus’ birth, somewhat surprisingly point to his death on the Cross. As we read in the second reading from Hebrews: “It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many sons and daughters to glory, should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” While we try to find the trust, confidence and faith to let the doors of our hearts be “opened wide,” we can look to God’s actions. In Christ we see God seeking to reveal our salvation and redemption. God doesn’t force it upon us, but shows it to us in Christ. That is, the Lord came into the world for us; he gave everything he possesses for us; and, he gave even his life for us. Our hesitation and reluctance to let the Lord in fully is lessened by seeing clearly his motivation. It isn’t to coerce, to manipulate, to condemn, to destroy. It is to love. And this is the more we all long for. It isn’t a what but it is a who – it is the Lord!
God Bless & Take Care! - Fr John