Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This week we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Feb. 2). In order to grasp the importance of this feast, a little background is helpful.
When Moses built the tabernacle for Israel, God came to dwell in it in a powerful way. (See Exodus 40.) When Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, God came to dwell in it in a powerful way. (See 1 Kings 8.) Then, when the temple was re-built after the Exile … nothing happened. For 500 years, Israel waited and longed for God’s return to the temple.
That’s the first thing we celebrate on the Feast of the Presentation: when Jesus came into the temple as a child, He fulfilled the long awaited hope of Israel: God returned, at last, to the Temple — though He did it in quite an unexpected way! The prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna both recognized what happened, and shared the good news with everyone they encountered.
The commemoration of that historic event is also an occasion for us to stop and ask: how has Jesus come into my life? It may have happened in quite dramatic ways, or in quiet, unexpected ways. Do we long for His coming, and recognize His coming, and share the good news of His coming, like Simeon and Anna did?
In some parishes, the Feast of the Presentation includes a procession with candles. The candles are brought into the Church, just as Jesus came as the light into the Temple. We also carry the candles to symbolize that each of us can carry the light of Christ into the world.
One of the ways Jesus brings His light into the world through us is through persecution — when we’re treated unfairly because of our Catholic faith. Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on that.
Thanks to retreat programs many of us are familiar with the concept of “palanca.” We offer prayers, or some service, or some sacrifice, on behalf of those who are going on retreat. It’s called “palanca,” a Spanish word that simply means “lever.” By our prayer, service and sacrifice, we lift up the other person.
When we’re treated unfairly because of our Catholic faith, that, too, can be palanca — a lever by which Jesus lifts up the world. Remember that He, too, was treated unfairly. And His unfair treatment was the lever that brought about the salvation of the world. When our persecution is joined to His Passion, it becomes palanca.
Don’t get me wrong: we can and should point out when Catholics are treated unfairly because of their faith, and work to prevent and remedy that. At the same time we need not be outraged — and probably shouldn’t even be surprised — when we aren’t treated fairly. Simeon said that Jesus was “a sign that would be contradicted.” As disciples, we share His life.
Jesus sent the apostles out with His own power. He sends each of us out, too. Part of the power of His life is the leverage that comes from unfair treatment. It’s a power Jesus exercised for the salvation of the world. It’s one of the ways we can carry His light in our lives.