Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Feast of the PRESENTATION of the LORD February 2, 2014

           Have you ever had the experience of seeing some product advertised on TV or in a magazine, and it looks just wonderful, absolutely great!  So with excitement and anticipation you order it, can hardly wait for it to come, and when it finally arrives it is just a piece of cheap plastic and doesn’t live up to your expectations at all?    And you feel disappointed.  Even cheated.  Did that ever happen to you?
          Well, that is how I feel about today’s readings.  They are, to say the least, a letdown.  In the first reading from the Prophet Malachi we hear this prediction:  “suddenly there will come to the temple, the LORD whom you seek,”   oohhh that sounds interesting.   The Prophet asks:  “But who will endure the day of his coming?  And who can stand when he appears?  For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.”  That sounds pretty impressive and dramatic.  I would expect something LOUD and BIG and even kind of SCARY!  “And who can stand when he appears?” the prophet asks.  The Lord’s appearance is gona’ knock you off your feet right on to your kiester.   It will be dramatic, or that is what I would expect.
          This is reinforced by the Psalm we sung today: “Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may come in!”
   The Lord is too big to fit through the massive gates of the Temple.  And “Who is this king of glory?  The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle.”  This is a fierce warrior.  We are expecting something pretty dramatic and also DANGEROUS.
          And what do we get?  Our Gospel is clearly set as the fulfillment of these prophecies.  After all this build up in the first reading and psalm what shows up?   Nothing more than a dirt poor couple from way out in the sticks, with a little baby.  That is it.  That is the fulfillment of these dramatic prophecies.  It is hard not to feel let down, disappointed, gypped.  No wonder no one even noticed except that pious guy Simeon and the old church lady Anna. 
          What is going on?  Well, it is God’s peculiar modus operandi.  You see God can reveal God’s self in dramatic and awesome ways:  for example to Moses in the burning bush, or as we heard last weekend in the conversion of St. Paul, knocking him to the ground. 
But St Luke is telling us that often – indeed usually – God acts much more discretely, subtlety, clandestinely. 
          God doesn’t show up at the temple knocking over pillars and busting through gates with sound and fury and scaring the wits out of everyone.  God comes to His Temple not with special effects and drama and sturm und drang, but instead with patience, humility and gentleness.
          And so God comes to His Temple like an infant in the arms his loving mother.  Not anything unusual or particularly noteworthy.  Nothing that anyone pays any attention to except for Simeon and Anna.  Only they are in tune enough with the action of God to recognize what is really going on – literally under their noses.
          Today is no different.  God is not in the big headlines, the superstars, the advertizing glitz, the big-budget special effects, but rather in the ordinary, the common place, the meek and the humble, the forgiving, the just, the peacemakers. 
          God wants to come into our lives; into our hearts.  God’s Temple, where God dwells today, is in our hearts.  That is why God created us, to be in relationship with us.  But God is NOT going to come barging in and making a lot of noise and crash His way into our lives.  That would scare me off, and probably you too.  OK, Jesus did do that with St. Paul, but Paul was a very brave guy and a special case. 
          For the great majority of us God comes as Jesus first came to the Temple; that is, inviting us to see beyond the hoopla and fanfare, to listen beyond the noise and commotion of the world:  inviting us to listen with our hearts, to see with our hearts, to perceive God present in the ordinary and the simple and the everyday.
          It is like the story of Elijah the prophet.  When Elijah was running for his life from Queen Jesebel Elijah fled to Mt Horeb.  To strengthen him God told Elijah to stand on the mountain and God would pass by letting Elijah see God’s glory.  First there was a great wind, so strong it was splitting the mountain and breaking rocks.  But God was not in the wind.  Then there was an earthquake, shaking the whole mountain.  But God was not in the earthquake.  Then there was a mighty fire, blazing forth, but God was not in the fire.  Finally there was a “sound of sheer silence.”   God was in the silence and Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle because God was passing by.

          God acts in the ordinary and the simple and the commonplace.  This is a great problem for us, because we are so bombarded by noise and messages and dramatic flashes and billboards and videos and a zillion tweets and calls.  God gets lost in all of that.
          It takes spiritual discipline to slow down and perceive what is really going on.  Probably hundreds of people were in the Temple the day Jesus and Mary and Joseph showed up. 
Most were busy with many things, had important things to do, could not be bothered to notice some poor peasants from way out in the sticks, which Nazareth was.  Only Simeon and Anna had the spiritual discipline to tune in to what God was doing and to see what really occurred there that day.  Everybody else missed it.
          What is God doing today?                     God is at work in your life.  Jesus comes to the Temple of your heart.  Do you notice?  Do you see?   Do you hear?                      
Well, it is hard.  It takes work. 
          So this week I urge you to find some time to listen to Jesus.  Turn off the TV, your phone, set down your tablet, unplug whatever other gadgets you are wired to, and just spend 10 minutes in quiet.  See if you can hear where is God at work in your life.  How does Jesus want to be a bigger part of your life?  See if you can find 10 minutes once this coming week and just be quiet and let God speak to you.  What do you notice?  What do you see?  If you can do that even once, good!  If you can do it 2 or 3 times this week, wonderful!  If you can do that every day, Fantastic!
          In His care for us God does not knock us over and barge into our lives.  Jesus comes simply and quietly, wanting us to open the door to Him.  Let Him in. 


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