Our Pastor’s Corner, February 2, 2014, The Presentation of the Lord

One of the classic movies of my youth is the comedy, Groundhog Day. Bill Murray stars as Phil Connors, a conceited weatherman, who begrudgingly goes to Punxsutawney, PA, to cover the annual Groundhog Day festival. Due to a snowstorm, Phil is marooned in the small hamlet and soon discovers that every day as he wakes to the 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 his lowest point, Phil realizes that no amount of self-seeking pleasure will ever make him happy and he despairs. His turning point 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 that snowballs into Phil’s lending a helping hand to the entire community. By the end, Phil knows everyone, develops a few talents (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.

The Presentation of Lord, Fra. Angelico, O.P.

The Presentation of Lord, Fra. Angelico, O.P.

Today we celebrate the Presentation of the Lord. This feast relives the moment when, 40 days after Christmas, Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus into the Temple to be redeemed and dedicated to God. 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 Jewish nation. At the time of Christ’s birth, Israel was 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. The Temple was specifically designed as a place to honor the ark, so 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 ends. 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, and spring comes to life.

This theme of breaking cycles is built into how we approach the New Year. It is a time to take stock of our lives, to get perspective 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 the Temple in Jerusalem was a difficult and daunting journey for the new parents and child. Yet, the moment of presentation bursts forth with the promise of new life. Whatever resolution you’ve made and failed at, it’s worth restarting. If you haven’t made a resolution, go for it. God always calls us to grow in our relationship with him. Get creative. The Presentation is a second chance at a fresh start in the New Year.

In honor of this feast, here’s my Top Ten List of Presentation Resolutions:
1. Go to Mass every Sunday. God is waiting to fill you with his blessings.
2. Say Thank You every day. 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. Go to www.flocknote.com/gospel and they’ll send a short piece of the Gospel to your email every day. (I read the entire Catechism this way last year)
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 14 minutes or 1% of your day.
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. Get active. There are so many ways to get involved in our parish. Join an Intentional Disciples’ small community or get involved in one of our 40 ministries. There’s something for everyone!

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

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