Homily preached at St Pauls University Ottawa
The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple 2 February 2012
Are you a cynic or a realist? What kind of world do you inhabit? How do you read the signs of the times? Whenyou stop and I mean really stop to listen and look at the world around you, do you feel confident or pessimistic? Some would say that our Western culture is in decline, because it has no values other than those of the market place. Individualism and Consumerism dominate. Religious people might lamentthe drop in churchgoing as a reason for decaying moral standards; non- religiouspeople might point to the horrors of religious bigotry and prejudiceas evidence that it is superstition and not reason that still pervades our religious life. Often we findourselves caught in the tension of feeling deeply unhappy about what isgoing on around us, but not knowing how to challenge the huge impersonal forces that swirl us and our world around.
I imagine that Mary and Joseph may have felt much the same – living in anoccupied country, trekking around it to register for a census, feeling nervous and uncertain about their somewhat unconventional marital relationship! In this Candlemas Eucharist -we continue to celebrate the Nativity, that birth, that magical story of mystery and starlight and angels singing that glows through time and space to lighten our darkness, to warm our hearts, to dazzle our senses.
In the Gospel reading we learn of the naming of Jesus. And a name is a deeply personal thing. It locates us in our family, our community, our cultures, our time, and yet is uniquely our own. In many cultures, to know someone’s name is to have power over them. Yet two old people recognise the political nature of this child’s birth. Simeon speaks words which are both hope and challenge and which also suggests a significance beyond the dues to the other peoples of the world. And Anna goes to tell the news of the baby to all those in Jerusalem who were waiting for it to be set free from the Roman occupation.
So we find ourselves living with tensions, conflicts; and the gaps between the way life is and the way we hope it could be, then, perhaps like Mary and Joseph we are blessed, we are in the right place. This is the soil for our growth, the chaos within which we paint, the noise within which we make our music, the raw materials for experiment and new knowledge. Because there is the peacewhere following the way of light, the way of practical, down-to -earth love,makes a difference. It is struggling to discover how to love, how to do care, how to do justice, how to be transmitters of new life that we walk with Jesus, not in a voiding that struggle.
So, the source of my hope this morning is the light which we shall offer and celebrate and contemplate on. We cannot choose or control outcomes– butwe can choose light, and the light of Christ, the ways here and now, day by day, that love can be made real.
In the name of God who is mystery, God who is love, God who is freedom. Amen