Sunday, 2 February 2020 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, World Day for Consecrated Life (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate a special occasion as it falls on the second day in the month of February, that is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord celebrating the moment when Our Lord Jesus Christ was brought to the Temple of God in Jerusalem to be offered and presenter to God in accordance to the laws of God revealed through Moses. In that Law, all the firstborn sons of the Israelites are to be dedicated to God, and thus, Jesus as the firstborn Son of Mary and His legal foster-father St. Joseph, was presented to the Lord.

This day is also commemorated in the Traditional Roman Calendar and in the Extraordinary Form as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to the tradition of the Jewish law in which a mother who have just given birth has to abstain herself from coming to the House of God as the blood discharge from the birth process was an impurity that needed to be purified first, and on the fortieth day after the birth of the child, the mother was to be brought to the Temple to be purified. And today marks the fortieth day since Christmas, the time when Mary had her ritual purification and also when the Child Jesus was presented before the Lord at His Temple.

Traditionally therefore, mirroring the celebration of Easter that lasts for fifty days, today, the second day of February marks the final ending of the Christmas season, as from here on henceforth, the liturgical readings and celebrations focus on the ministry and works of the Lord rather than His childhood and early years. And today we also know this celebration as the Candlemas, because by our Church traditions, candles are presented in this Holy Mass and blessed, symbolic of what we celebrate today.

This is because on this day, we celebrate Our Lord Jesus Christ, the One Who was offered and presented before God, His heavenly Father, and also being revealed to the people of Israel. If the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord a few weeks ago focused on the revelation of the Messiah to the Gentiles and the pagan nations, then it is at this Feast of the Presentation of the Lord that Christ was revealed to the Jewish people, through the actions of Simeon the elder, who proclaimed that the Child he was holding, is the Holy One of God long awaited by the people.

The blessing of candles to be used for the year in today’s Holy Mass and also the tradition of procession of candles today came about from the words of Simeon himself as we heard in our Gospel passage today, that Christ is the ‘Light for the revelation to the people of many nations or the Gentiles’, emphasising His role as the Saviour of not just the Israelites, but also of the whole world. And therefore, the blessed candles represents Jesus Christ Himself, Our Lord, that later on we will bring into our homes, signifying the arrival of Christ, the Light of the nations and Saviour, into our homes and families.

The prophetess Anna who were there with Simeon also reemphasised what Simeon had said, both filled with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. They proclaimed the coming of God’s salvation to His people and how they should wait no longer for the Lord has come to save them, through that seemingly innocent and frail Child brought to be offered to the Lord at the Temple that day. It was also a fulfilment of what the Lord had spoken through His prophet Malachi as we heard in our first reading today, speaking of the coming of His Saviour preceded by His messengers of truth.

Simeon and Anna were the ones who proclaimed this truth to all those gathered on that day, revealing the truth of the Messiah, the One Who would save the Lord’s people. And then, we are also brought to an even deeper appreciation of the significance of this moment of Presentation of the Lord, because according to the Jewish traditions and the Law of Moses, one cannot be considered lawfully as the member of the people of Israel unless the precepts and commandments were obeyed, and Jesus as the firstborn Son being presented to the Lord was among these.

And in both the first reading today as well as in our second reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard the emphasis of the Lord Jesus as the High Priest Who was to offer the sacrificial offerings favourable and delightful to God, for the salvation of the whole world and all of us mankind. As we heard from the author of the Epistle of the Hebrews, in order to become the High Priest to save all of us, He has to be like us in all things, and to obey the precepts of the Law so that through His proper presentation as what we celebrate today, He was inducted to this High Priesthood before God.

In the ancient times, since the Jewish priesthood was introduced through the laws of Moses, those who were to be made and ordained as priests of the Lord were to be offered and consecrated to God. And it was the same process that Christ went through in His presentation. Simeon and Anna proclaimed this revelation of truth, that Jesus was to be the High Priest of all, to be the one to absolve and redeem all mankind from their sins just as the priests of the Lord offered the animal sacrifices for the temporary remission and forgiveness of the people’s sins.

This prefigured what the Lord was about to do in order to save us all, by offering a worthy sacrifice for our sake. And unlike the past offerings of lambs and animals that could only bring a small and temporary relief from sin, this sacrifice and offering that Christ was to offer, was in a single moment and time, to absolve all the combined weight of all the sins of all the people of the world, past, present and future, by the shedding of His Precious Blood and by the offering of His own Precious Body on the Altar of the Cross.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord today, we are called to remember Christ, our Eternal High Priest, Lord and God and His ultimate sacrifice of love, made in the supreme act of worthy sacrifice and total obedience to the will of God, His heavenly Father. By the obedience of Christ, Who gave it His all for the sake of our salvation, all of us have received pardon from our sins and the salvation from God.

That is why today we truly give thanks to God for having given us all such a great and wonderful Saviour Who manifested God’s boundless love for us in such an amazing way. As we bring home our blessed candles today, we remember to bring Christ, the Light of the world, into our families and homes, that through sharing in His light we may be brought out of the darkness that encompass us and darkened our lives all these while.

And today, in addition, we also celebrate the World Day for Consecrated Life, remembering all those who have given themselves to a life consecrated to God, namely all those who are in religious congregations, all the religious brothers and sisters who committed themselves to a life of purity and service, prayer and commitment to God. They have offered and presented themselves to the Lord imitating the example of Christ Himself, dedicating themselves solely to the purpose of glorifying God and obeying His will.

Today therefore we pray for all of them and ask that God will continue to guide them and be with all of them that each and every one of them will remain strong in persevering in their faith and dedication to God. We pray that each and every one of those in consecrated life will be our good inspiration and example of how we can live our lives virtuously in accordance with God’s will, and serve God with all of our hearts.

There are plenty of challenges facing those who live in consecrated life in our world today, especially in a world filled with so much materialism and emphasis on pleasure and worldly form of enjoyment and happiness, a world filled with ego and ambition, pride and immorality among other things. The number of people who gave themselves to consecrated life to God has dwindled tremendously in the past decades, and many of those whom God had called are facing plenty of distractions and temptations, as are those who are already in the consecrated life.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice today in the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and also the Purification of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, let us first of all bring Christ into our families and homes that He may sanctify our homes and families, and bring us all closer to God, and from there on, seeds of good vocations will rise, be it for the building of good families for those who have been called to holy, married life, or for the vocations of holy priesthood, and of course as mentioned, those who are called to the consecrated life as religious brothers and sisters.

Let us all help one another to be more faithful to God and inspire each other to live according to God’s will and obeying His laws and commandments as revealed to us through His Church. Let us all put God at the centre of our lives from now on and let Christ’s light shine in our lives that we may be bright and beautiful beacons of His light in our world today, calling many more people among the nations to be the disciples of the Lord by our faith and obedience to God. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.