January 31, 2021: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Pastor’s Corner
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord. (Luke 2:22)
One the classic movies of my youth is the comedy Groundhog Day. Bill Murray stars as Phil Connors, a conceited weather man, who begrudgingly goes to Punxsutawney PA to cover the annual Groundhog Day festival. Due to a snowstorm, Phil is marooned in the small Pennsylvania hamlet overnight and soon discovers that every day he wakes to Sonny and Cher duet, “I’ve got you babe,” it is February 2 all over again. He is stuck. Much of the comedy revolves around his “ability” to anticipate the day’s events as he pursues happiness in the proverbial wine, woman and song. But to no avail. At the low point of the movie, Phil realizes that no amount of self-seeking pleasure will ever make him happy and he despairs. The turning point of the film happens when Phil reaches out to help a beggar who is freezing, and although he doesn’t save him the first time, this altruistic gesture begins to shape a selfless attitude which snowballs into Phil lending a helping hand to the entire community. By the end of the show, Phil knows everyone, develops a few talents (like playing the piano) and discovers that happiness comes not from what you get, but from what you give. Once Phil’s selfish shadow dissipates, the cycle is broken and spring comes to life.
This Tuesday, February 2nd, we celebrate the Presentation of the Lord. This feast relives the moment when, 40 days after Christmas, Mary and Joseph bring the child Jesus into the Temple to be redeemed and dedicated to God. Upon entering the Temple, the Holy family is greeted by Simeon, a priest who had been waiting for the promised Messiah. Simeon’s lifelong vigil represents the hopes and dreams of the entire Jewish nation. At the time of Christ’s birth, Israel is stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. The Temple was missing the holy presence of God: The Ark of the Covenant. Since the Temple was specifically designed as a place to honor the ark, its absence created ache and angst for the return of God’s living presence. As Christ is presented in the Temple, the cycle of waiting comes to an end. The living presence of God returns to the Temple, not in a gold-gilded ark, but Incarnate in our own human nature. Simeon weeps for joy as he prophetically proclaims “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.” For the Jewish people, the light has dawned, spring comes to life.
This theme of breaking cycles is built into how we approach the New Year. To say that 2020 was a difficult year is an understatement. In the midst of pandemic, political discord and the hardship of not being able to gather in person with loved ones and the community of faith in its fullness, we are yearning for a fresh start. And part of making fresh start includes making time to take stock of our lives, to get perspective and to make goals. The New Year is often a time to make resolutions and to set goals for personal growth. But getting unstuck is tough. Statistics tells us that 92% of all New Year’s resolutions fail in the first month. Human nature tells us that, once we initially fail in our attempt, we easily throw in the towel. Old habits die hard, new habits take time. Precisely at this pivotal moment, the feast of the presentation emerges to encourage us. It is a powerful reminder that, even 40 days after Christmas, God is still present with us. Don’t give up! Presumably, there were days when Simeon didn’t want to go to Temple to wait and pray. No doubt the trip from the cave in Bethlehem to Temple in Jerusalem was difficult and daunting journey for new parents and child. And yet, the moment of presentation bursts forth with promise of new life. Whatever resolutions you’ve made and failed, they’re worth restarting. If you haven’t intentionally, go for it. God always calls us to growth in our relationship with him. Get creative. The Presentation is a second chance at a fresh start to the New Year.
In honor of this fresh start feast, here’s my Top Ten List of Presentation Goals: 1. Go to Mass every Sunday. God is waiting to fill you with his blessings. 2. Say Thank You everyday. It’s not that happy people are grateful; it’s grateful people who are happy. 3. Tell the truth. It’s easy to fib and we do it more often than we’d like to admit. 4. Read the Gospels in a year. Sign up for a 20-minute podcast hosted by Fr Mike Schmitz at which goes through the Scripture with both commentary and prayer at https://ascensionpress.com/pages/biy-registration 5. Stop Complaining. Nothing kills the grace of God’s presence like self absorbed griping. 6. Go to Confession regularly. There’s nothing like being forgiven And it’s free! 7. Pray the Rosary. It’ll be the best 15 minutes or 1% of the day you’ll spent. 8. Don’t Gossip but Encourage. When you find yourself gossiping resolve to seek out that person and encourage them. 9. Spend less, pray more. Use your prayer book more than your checkbook. 10. Register & Get active. There are so many ways to get involved in our Parish, even in these days when we are connecting virtually. If you’ve never registered at the parish, you can do this online. If you want to connect with our formation, sacramental or ministry groups, there’s a place for you. Check out our website or sign up for our ebulletin: stdominics.org. There’s something for everyone!
~ Fr. Michael