Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Feb. 2, 2020)

“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.”

Simeon utters this prayer as he holds Jesus in his arms. The prayer is a thanksgiving to the Lord but also a witness. Simeon professes his belief that God has brought salvation to the world through Jesus. He says, “For my eyes have seen your salvation.” He sees and professes faith.

Seeing is something those who have this gift may easily take for granted. It’s so much a part of life that we might only give it serious consideration when something is wrong and we can not see, or when our sight is limited or skewed and needs assistance or correction. When we think of those things, we see we might go a step further and ask ourselves “How do I see them?” or maybe better ,“How do I view them?” — not so much from a physical perspective, but from an act of processing what we see. In a certain sense, our minds make an interpretation of what we see with our eyes. Simeon saw the child Jesus and knew that he was the One. That is, he saw with the eyes of faith and then bore witness with his prayer.

Anna, likewise, on seeing the child Jesus and his parents, utters a proclamation of praise and thanksgiving. Anna and Simeon represent the faithful and humble people of Israel who were longing and waiting for the Messiah.

St. Luke tells us something about each one. Simeon was “righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Anna was a prophetess, advanced in years, and a woman of prayer. She “never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.”

Anna and Simeon have hearts that are open to seeing with the eyes of faith. Their prayer, worship and longing for the Messiah prepared them to see him when he arrived.

Just the other day, I met a homeless man while leaving a store. He was actually a parishioner from one of my previous assignments, and he remembered me. He asked if I had a minute, and then told me of a conversation he’d recently had with someone who, by his description, seems to have had a bit of a fundamentalist view on the Scriptures and salvation. He recalled the exchange, gave an analysis of it, then offered his own thoughts, saying, “God has been good to me. Every day he is good to me. I meet Jesus in the different people I encounter and I thank Him for His kindness. He is real to me. He is so good and wants everyone to share in His grace.”

He went on for about ten minutes on this theme, not just repeating himself but nuancing his reflections. The common thread was that God was present to him in his life and he wanted to profess it. He was a witness to me of God’s goodness.

Like Simeon and Anna, the homeless man recognized God’s encounter. He could see God’s providing him with much more than the material needs of life, though he was also appreciative when this happened. His heart was open to see God’s saving activity in the regular activity of life. Seemingly ordinary and plain events of life find new meaning when he recognizes God’s presence in them.

Jesus came to save us. Salvation is from him. He continues to pour out his saving grace each moment of our lives. Opening our hearts to see his presence can open the floodgates of thanks and praise. And, as Anna and Simeon show us, it leads to peace, serenity and joy.

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Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.