This weekend we celebrate the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple of Jerusalem, a feast occurring forty days after the Nativity of Our Lord. We find Mary and Joseph presenting their first-born to God in the temple thereby fulfilling the religious laws of their forbearers.
As in so many other instances, Mary’s nurturing of Jesus throughout His infancy and early life, Mary’s finding him in the Temple when He was twelve, being with him during His terrible trial, passion and death, and lastly with her presence among the Twelve at Pentecost, Mary (who symbolizes all believers) is silently present. No words of hers are reported.
From the beginning, Mary was there. At the end, Mary under the cross was there, silently “keeping all of these things in heart,” and pondering what they might mean. Throughout it all she is a model for us. In her quiet humility and openness to whatever God wants to accomplish in and through her, she witnesses to us what it means to be a Christian; she represents how we should respond to God’s presentation of Himself to us.
All too often we think we are the ones to fashion our religious response to God. We construct for ourselves a religious response that suits us and meets our standards. Not so with Mary. She receives what God fashions; she receives God’s gifts to her and humbly follows the promptings of God’s Holy Spirit, pondering in her heart all that God is doing while faithfully carrying out all of the prescriptions that were observed in her Jewish religious tradition.
God presents Himself to us. How should we respond? Each of us must answer that question. In developing our answer we cannot overlook what the elders among us have to offer us. They offer us wisdom along with the insights of tradition. They give witness to faithful dedication in the midst of a culture of self-gratification and self-fulfillment. In many respects they represent Mary’s quiet and humble receptivity of God’s love and will.
What do we do with what is old – tear it down, discard it and build anew? Sometime we should; sometimes we should not. Whatever we do we cannot afford to easily jettison the old. By reading the Bible’s recorded history of God’s work among us we have things to learn. After all, we see where we should go in our future by understanding our past and seeing from whence we have come.
The same is true for each one of us personally. For each and every one of us there will come a day that will be our last one and our earthly history will come to an end. Hopefully on that day, we will be able to repeat the words of Simeon heard in today’s Gospel account, "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 sight of all the peoples, a light of revelation for the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."