February 2, 2014 - Presentation of the Lord, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
I think people are beginning to lose a sense of the sacred. Religious rituals seem to have lost their significance in people’s lives.
Busy schedules, dual-career marriages, single-parent homes, and an overabundance of after-school activities all mean that fewer families eat together or pray together or even go to church together.
So an understanding and appreciation of ritual and ceremony is lost, and so is any sense of the sacred.
For many, religious rituals are arcane, medieval nonsense. They are reduced to church attendance at Christmas and Easter, and, of course, the socially required times: baptism, weddings and funerals.
Ritual is anything we do repeatedly or in a particular manner.
What we seem to have lost is a respect and reverence for religious ritual and its importance in our lives.
Marking daily and special events with rituals help us recognize the sacredness of human life and the presence of God in our lives. However, in the lives of so many today, ritual is practically extinct.
God has disappeared from the awareness and experience of daily life.
The result: our daily lives are reduced and impoverished. Little room is left for the sacred, for the mystery of God, for holiness.
Reflecting on the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple challenges us to recover the mystery of God in our everyday lives.
How? Through our celebration of religious ritual.
Simeon seeks the Lord. Anna seeks the Lord.
And where do they find him? In the Temple.
Why the Temple?
Because Mary and Joseph have brought Jesus there for a religious ritual: the circumcision and naming of the child and the purification of the mother - a religious ritual very similar to baptism.
When Jesus is presented in the Temple, he is seen by those who were looking for him.
It is here that Simeon and Anna see the Lord.
It is here that they had been watching and waiting.
It is here that the Holy Spirit came upon them.
It is here that they were enveloped in the mystery of God.
That’s why religious ritual is so very important.
It is here that we watch and wait.
It is here that the Holy Spirit comes upon us.
It is here that Jesus gives us his very Body and Blood in our ritual observance of the Last Supper.
Jesus is presented in this Temple each and every time we, as church, gather to celebrate the Eucharist.
When the sacred species of bread turned Body is lifted up, those who are looking see. When the sacred species of wine turned Blood is lifted up, those who are looking see.
It is here that we are enveloped in the mystery and transcendence of Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth, our Father.
This religious experience calls us to seek the presence of God, not just here, but in the ordinary events of our daily lives:
- Greeting the new day with an expression of gratitude.
- Celebrating the goodness of food and family and friends at meals.
- Recognizing the mystery of God in all that is beautiful.
- Reading and reflecting upon a passage of scripture each day.
- Placing a cross or crucifix or some other religious symbol in a prominent place in our homes.
- Pausing at the end of the day to reflect on the day’s successes and failures and to promise to do better tomorrow.
Each of us can find creative ways of adding religious rituals to our everyday lives. These play such an important role in our ability to find intimacy with God.
Without our religious rituals, we lose that sense of the sacred.
And without that sense of the sacred, we live in poverty of spirit.
Any sense of the mystery of God is lost
Simeon and Anna went to the Temple. In the religious ritual celebrated there, they found the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus the Lord.
Seek, and in celebrating our religious rituals, you will find.