I must admit that far too often I hear the Gospel reading at Mass and think to myself, “I know what the message is here. I know what lesson Christ is trying to teach.”
I say that only because after attending Mass since I was a pup, I’ve heard the Gospel stories countless times and heard priests’ homilies explaining them, and I find myself guilty of not being open to new interpretations or even subtle messages from God.
I know that’s wrong to do, but just like learning the alphabet and the times tables (new math students, ask your parents what that means), sometimes things become rote. And shame on me for that.
But once in a while, I let my guard down and God hits me with a gentle uppercut to let me know He’s still in charge here. Thank goodness He doesn’t use the 10-ounce gloves heavyweights use, otherwise the celebrant would be over me counting to 10.
No, God uses big fluffy attention-grabbing mitts — perfect for getting His point across with no need for a KO.
This past Sunday was the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, and the Gospel reading was from Luke.
Again, I’ve heard this passage countless times over the years and it’s a beautiful, yet bittersweet reminder to the Blessed Mother that Jesus was “destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel,” and “a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
But what struck me, out of nowhere, during Sunday’s Gospel was the line, “Simeon took Him [Jesus] in his arms.” Simeon took the Christ Child in his arms!
I started to imagine just how powerful a moment that was for Simeon, a righteous and devout man.
Being a father of four children, I know just how heart-warming holding an infant is, especially a new-born. I was blessed to be able to do that four times, and those feelings came flowing back at Mass.
I also thought of the joy it was to hold Igor as a puppy — not that I’m comparing the Baby Jesus to Iggy, but for me the unconditional love dogs have for humans is so much like Jesus’.
Luke’s Gospel tells us that Simeon knew exactly Who it was he was holding in his hands.
Simeon was experiencing the heart-warming joy of embracing a newborn child — in and of itself, one of the greatest feelings in the world. But he was also holding in his hands the Savior of the World; the Messiah; the Chosen One.
In awesome wonder, I pondered how Simeon was also a chosen one. What did God see in him to allow him to cradle His only Son. I thought that there aren’t many people in the history of the world who got to do that.
I can’t say I was jealous of Simeon, but I was certainly envious.
Folks are often asked if they could meet anyone from history, who would that be. I got my answer on Sunday.
For me it would be Simeon, and the first thing I would ask him is what did it feel like to hold the Baby Jesus? What did it feel like, for those few moments, to hold the whole world in his hands?
Sunday’s Gospel story of the presentation left me in awe and brought me back to some very warm and peaceful times in my life.
Thanks for the uppercut, God. And thanks for wearing those big puffy gloves.