One of the opportunities I have as Assistant Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), is to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.
The phrase “I see you” is a common enough expression. Its basic meaning is that I can observe you and your activity with my eyes.
However, there is a deeper meaning to the words when they are used – as they are frequently – in ministry to those whose needs are often invisible in our society, or whose value is often not ‘seen’ at a deeper more fundamental level. Saying ‘I see you’ in this case doesn’t mean “I observe you are there.” Instead, it an acknowledgement that “I value you and care about you.”
The readings for the beautiful feast of the Presentation of the Lord point to how God ‘sees’ us in this deeper way, and how we can ‘see’ deeply the presence of Jesus, in his human life long ago, and in others today. The first reading from the prophet Malachi speaks of God’s promise of coming to set the people free and how God’s messenger will purify those who can ‘see’ what God is doing for them. The psalm is a song of praise to the God who comes and is ‘seen’ as the true king of Israel. The Letter to the Hebrews is a powerful testimony of how Jesus’ is able to be our savior because he shares fully in our humanity. He has truly ‘seen’ us in the depth of our need and sin, and has chosen to share in our need, and journey with us, showing us the path of salvation. And in his dying and rising, we have ‘seen’ the depth of his love for us.
Finally, the Gospel highlights those who ‘see’ with the eyes of faith in recounting the witness of Simeon and Anna, as Jesus’ parents bring the newborn to the Temple to perform the ritual of naming and circumcision according to the Jewish law. Notice that it is not the learned scholars of the temple – the scribes – or the temple priests who see in this ordinary family and child the extraordinary love of God, but instead two elders who have prayed unceasingly for the insight to ‘see’ when God appears in an ordinary moment of life. It reminds us that God is revealed in many ways but often through people and in ways we do not expect or imagine.
It is fitting on this day that the church makes special memory of this feast through a liturgical procession with candles – on a day that used to be called “Candlemas.” 40 days after Christmas and always some months before Easter, we are reminded in this ‘in-between time’ that Christ is the light that, day-to-day, helps us ‘see’ one another in love.
Let us pray to God that Simeon’s joyful vision of God’s salvation may be ours as well, and that we may ‘see’, as he and Anna did, the glory of God in the image of Christ, wherever and in whomever we encounter him.
God give you peace!