February 2, 2015
The Presentation of the Lord
Jesus Presents Himself In Us
Look, I am sending my messenger.
I am sitting here about to write this blog, asking the Holy Spirit for light. The thought comes, “Just how important is this in the eyes of God? How important am I?”
I am one of seven billion people on one little planet circling around one of two hundred billion stars (suns), in our universe alone. What kind of GPS would it take just to find planet earth, much less me on it?
So much for space. What about time?
The common theory is that the universe has been in existence for 13.77 billion years, and our solar system for 4.54 billion. My whole life-span wouldn’t even appear as a nanosecond blip (one billionth of a second) on a video of existence, even if we limit the video to the two million or fifty thousand years that some form of human beings may have been around. My life is too short to even register. (There are roughly 1 576 800 000 000 seconds in just 50,000 years. How short is one billionth of one of those? Or try 31 536 000 seconds in a year times 13 billion years, which adds up to 4.09968e+17seconds. What is one billionth of one of those?)
In the big picture of things, the picture God sees, is what I am doing for a couple of hours this morning in Memphis, Tennessee, that big a deal?
Then we look at how important the three hours were that Jesus spent on a cross on a tiny hill outside of Jerusalem two thousand years ago. What are we supposed to use to put things in perspective? It’s clear that time and space don’t work.
Instead of evaluating actions quantitatively, by how prominent they are in space, or how extensive in time, suppose we evaluate them by their quality. How important are animal actions compared to plant life? Human actions compared to any non-rational activity? How important is a divine action compared to anything humans can do?
Anything God does, no matter how limited the action is in time and space, is in fact in-finite, “un-limited,” “without boundaries.” Whatever is divine has infinite value. So what I am doing in the microscopic time and space of this one morning in my life has infinite value.
That is because Jesus Christ is doing it with me, in me and through me. That is not just a hope, it is an article of faith. Saint Paul wrote to his converts that the whole Christian mystery, everything he was sent to preach, boils down to three words: “Christ in you.” And he added, “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
He said the same thing in different words, which every baptized Christian is obliged to repeat under pain of denying the faith: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
As long as we have not lost the divine life of God (“grace”) by doing something so evil, so deadly, that it constitutes a “mortal” rejection of Jesus and all he stands for, then it is a doctrine of faith that Jesus is living and acting in us as in his own body on earth. Because that is what we are. That is what Baptism made us.
The more we are surrendered to Jesus in us, motivating and guiding us by his Holy Spirit, the more the divine prevails in all our divine-human actions. Our divinized humanity is like the water mixed with wine during the Presentation of Gifts at Mass: no matter how much it dilutes the wine, the water has a different taste. It is water mixed with wine. And that is what we are when the “new wine” of God’s divine life is poured into our souls. Everywhere we go, and in everything we do, we are the “aroma of Christ,” a “fragrance that comes from knowing him.” We are “a fragrance from life to life,” an aroma of life that guides people to that “life to the full” that Jesus came to give (2Corinthians 2:14; John 10:10).
That is the message of the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. What Simeon and Anna saw was a very ordinary married couple presenting their baby to the Lord as Jewish law required. There was nothing extraordinary about it, because in God’s plan, Jesus “had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way.” He had to look just the way the other members of his body would look when, after his resurrection, he would present himself to people with them, and in them and through them to give light to the world.
What Anna and Simeon saw was human. What they heard was divine: the voice of God saying, “Look, I am sending my messenger.” Then they knew that what they saw was divinealso: “My eyes have seen your salvation, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
The point is, that is what people see when they see us—or ought to see, if we are not hiding our light “under a bushel basket.” Jesus told us, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:15). The “light” he is talking about is his presence within us. And what he calls “your good works” are the works he himself is doing with us, in us and through us.
People won’t always like what they see. Like Jesus, we should be “a sign that will be contradicted.” The Church is the “sign of Jonah,” the only sign Jesus promised to keep giving to the world (Matthew 16:4). The Church is the sign, the visible manifestation, of the risen Jesus on earth today. But she is that sign only when it is obvious that her members have passed through death to life in Baptism by dying to this world and to everything it offers, to live henceforth for no other purpose than to let Christ live in them.
When we do that, the divine life, the “non-finite” life of God is at work in us, giving to everything we do infinite value. Even on an ordinary morning in Memphis, Tennessee.
Do you choose to let Jesus present himself to the world in you and in everything you do?
Pray all day: “Jesus, do this with me, do this in me, do tihis through me.”
Practice: During the Presentation of Gifts at Mass, “present your body as a living sacrifice to God” (Romans 12:1), asking Jesus to present himself to others in everything you do.
Discuss: How is Jesus visibly present to others in us? What makes him visible?