Commentary on the Gospel of
I am writing this reflection on the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple on January 18, which is celebrated as Martin Luther King Jr Day in the U.S. It is two days before the presidential inauguration and 12 days after the riots at Capitol Hill in Washington DC. The atmosphere in the country is politically charged and tense. To make matters worse, the pandemic continues to take its toll. As of this writing, there are over 24 million COVID-19 related cases and over 400,000 deaths just in the U.S. with the global number being over 95 million cases and over 2 million deaths. While vaccines have begun being administered, new variants of the virus threaten to further complicate the situation. It is not surprising then that I am filled with mixed emotions. However, as I reflect on the gospel reading from Luke, I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr’s words in a 1963 speech: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Today’s feast is also called ‘Candlemas’ because this was the day that all the candles used in the Church throughout the year would be blessed. The light from these candles symbolizes Christ, the light of the world and echo Simeon’s words in the gospel reading, of the little Jesus being “a light of revelation to the Gentiles.” The Presentation of the Lord has two dimensions: purification and presentation.
Both these dimensions have relevance for us today. We are called to purify ourselves of our prejudices, hatred, and disordered affections and to present the love and light of Christ to our world. But as we know from experience, at least I do know from mine, this is not easy, and we need God’s grace. As we recall the presentation of the Lord in the Temple today, let us pray that we may be guided by the Holy Spirit to allow the love and light of Christ to shine through us on our world.