February 2nd ~ The Presentation of the Lord
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” ~ Luke 2:29-32
Simeon’s aforementioned proclamation highlights today’s Gospel (Luke 2:22-40) on this the day the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. A life offered in deep and profound prayer, a man whose remarkable faith compelled him to essentially turn his back on the secular world, Simeon uttered these words after merely seeing and holding the child Jesus for but a few moments. Powerful.
Just as Simeon took the child Jesus into his arms, we too take Jesus into our hands by way of the Holy Eucharist every time we celebrate the Holy Mass. To encounter him in such an intimate way ~ body, blood, soul and divinity ~ this is our food for the journey, that which fortifies and strengthens us in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus seeks to bring you salvation and consolation in this most holy of Sacraments. How blessed we are.
“The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part”
These were the words of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Petty in his hit single “The Waiting is the Hardest Part,” off of his 1981 Album Hard Promises. This was an album ~ yes, we rocked out to vinyl back then ~ that I remember running out to buy in the 7th grade approximately 47 minutes after earning enough money mowing lawns to do so. Petty passed away suddenly in early October of 2017, and I recall being surprised and very much disappointed by the fact that none of the tributes paid to him by the many classic rock stations programmed into my car radio played or even referenced this underrated, poignant song as they reflected on his storied and prolific career. Although the inspiration for this song was a woman naturally ~ it is, after all, a rock and roll song ~ the lyrics speak of past mistakes, optimism, the arduous but steady accumulation of wisdom, and yes, that grandest of virtues, patience. For so many years, Simeon prayed for the fulfillment of God’s promises, the restoration of his people, Israel. He sought consolation, yearned for it, never departing the holy temple inside which he prayed for it.
Israel remained occupied, the Pharisees and Sadducees ruled, rivalries between the Galileans and Judeans caused countless rifts, class warfare was an everyday reality. Yet Simeon prayed for consolation. And waited.
Prayed...and waited...prayed...and waited.
Then came that very moment of consolation that he so desired, delivered to him in divine fashion in the form of the infant Jesus.
Saint Isaac the Syrian once said "When patience greatly increases in our soul, it is a sign that we have secretly received the grace of consolation. The power of patience is stronger than the joyful thoughts that descend into the heart.” In yet another one of his renowned homilies he said of patience “In proportion to your humility you are given patience in your woes; and in proportion to your patience the burden of your afflictions is made lighter and you will find consolation; in proportion to your consolation, your love of God increases; and in proportion to your love, your joy in the Holy Spirit is magnified.”
Patience isn’t quite as cherished in today’s secular society of course. Never once have I seen a late night TV Infomercial promoting a “Get Rich Slow” Scheme. Deep pocketed, big market baseball teams such as the Yankees and Dodgers seldom rebuild, instead opting for a “win now” strategy which typically entails plundering small market teams for their best young players, outbidding these clubs for their players’ services with the seemingly unending stream of Cable TV revenue in which they slosh freely. God’s ways are certainly not man’s ways. We must tune out the breakneck pace of the world, a largely man made fabrication anyway ~ where are these people rushing off to anyway? ~ and pray for the gift of patience every day. We must come to grips with the fact that developing this gift of patience takes....well . . . patience.
I leave you with the following prayer, one in which we ask God for the gift of this most treasured of virtues:
“God of wisdom, I call upon You and know that You will answer me and tell me the great and unsearchable things that I do not know. I thank You for divine understanding that reveals to me the things that I do not understand. I pray for patience and understanding in all areas of my life: my workplace, my home, my relationships, in all things. I thank You for allowing me to see things like You do.” ~ Amen.
“And so let us be glad and bear with patience everything the world throws at us, secure in the knowledge that it is then that we are most in the mind of God." ~ St. Basil the Great - "Gateway to Paradise"