Boredom: being entertained by others…Joy: working for family/community
The Presentation Feast can be taken as a moment to praise God by sitting in church and being mildly inspired by the fact that God became man for us.
That’s OK, but I doubt whether Jesus Christ is interested in being praised as though he was a human dictator who desperately needs their people love and honour them.
Our praise must be more than mere words: more action allows God to transform us into who God created us to be: the image and likeness of God. AKA living with joy/peace in our hearts.
The Readings today are like a road map that helps God to transform us. You might be asking yourself why transformation is so important – maybe I’m “happy” where I am?
There’s a movie starring Jack Nicholson called, “As Good as it Gets”. It’s kind of funny, but kind of sad, and provides a defeatist attitude to life: this is where I’m stuck, there’s no hope for better; now let me get as much out of life as I can. There is little thought about how much they can give to life (=to the community).
Pleasure is the only consolation; but lasting joy requires more from us: we feel pride in achievement and gratitude for what we have received. The movie characters have forgotten the supreme joy that comes from helping and empowering others. Because when we empower others, giving others the choice and opportunity to achieve good things, then we are acting like God acts: our happiness nears perfection, and our joy persists even during hard times.
In the First Reading, the key phrase is: “He will take his seat as refiner and purifier.” The message is: we need to endure some purification (faithfulness to community, sacrifice for others, perhaps suffering, etc.), in order to feel God more closely in our lives: that is, fighting bad habits, practicing charity, and giving back kindness when we are mistreated.
But that sort of purification is not easy. This is where the Second Reading is a great encouragement to us: “He took to himself descent from Abraham.” This reminds us that what Christ accomplished was done through his humanity. He suffered from the same temptations and struggles of life as many of us do. The message is: we can also do it.
The Gospel shows us how Mary and Joseph are faithful to the community activities – connecting with God through fidelity to their faith. The humanity of Jesus needed these processes in order to develop fully as a man. Are we faithful to our faith and community?
Going to church is not to keep God happy. Going to church, the Mass, gives God an opportunity to do something to us! Every time we skip Mass, it’s a lost opportunity for us, and for our community. Why do we get bored in Mass? Could it be because we are not willing to contribute energy and singing, or helping around the community in various groups?
As we grow weaker in faith, so our community suffers a loss of God’s love coming through us: we slowly by slowly, grow more less interested in others and more interested in me, me, me: my needs, my program, my problems.
An increasing focus on me, me, me, may have short term benefits but, sadly, the long term is not so happy: personal depression/unhappiness, and the community changes from trustworthy to a place we live in fear because more and more people take what they can by any means.
However, the joy of this Gospel is how we are transformed when we recognise God present in our community (Zechariah). We see God at work in our community through other people’s selfless love for others, and this strengthens our hope and our fear is removed:
there’s no need to stress about tomorrow!
Finally, Anna reveals what our response should be: one of praises or expressions of gratitude to those who help others. This week, let us pause and reflect: who are the people that reveal God to me? How to I respond? With presumption? The best praise is to imitate those people who reveal God’s love so we can also experience the joy they express.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI