Maria Montello, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner serving in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, reflects on recognizing Christ in our daily lives.
In today’s Gospel we hear about the presentation of Jesus at the temple, which was a Jewish religious rite of purification and offering required forty days after giving birth to a boy. Rather than focusing on the specifics of the child’s presentation, we hear details of the recognition of Jesus as the Messiah by those in the temple.
Two people at the temple recognize the infant Jesus: Simeon, a righteous, pious man, who says “my eyes have seen your salvation” and Anna, a devout prophetess, who gives thanks to God for Jesus and who “spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” These two “endure[d] the day of his coming”, as it says in the first reading from Malachi, and who “[stood] when he appear[ed].”
Christ is with us today as he was with Simeon and Anna two thousand years ago.
In Cambodia, where I serve as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, I see Christ in the beautiful face of the wrinkled old woman selling fruit to support her family. I think of the woman in Scripture who gave two small coins: “She, from her poverty, has contributed all she had” (Mark 12).
I see Christ in the children dancing in the stream of water from the downspout during a monsoon rain. “Unless you become like one of these…” (Matthew 18).
I see Christ in the women who wait for “customers” outside the beer hall. “Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you" (John 8).
The “leper,” the “possessed,” the “unclean,” the “stranger,” the “outsider.” There is Christ.
There is no question that Jesus is “presented” to us daily and on this day, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The question that remains is from Malachi in our first reading: Will we stand when he appears? Will our hearts be ready to recognize him?
How do we ready our hearts to recognize the Christ? Author Annie Dillard writes, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
What do we fill our eyes and our ears and our minds with on a daily basis? Do we feel the presence of Christ through Facebook? Or does our use of social media influence us to see people as brands rather than God-bearers? Does our daily intake of sensationalist, negative news stir in us compassion and recognition of Christ, the Stranger and Outcast (Psalm 69:9)? Or does it predispose us to labeling and assigning people to groups in our mind, groups to be mistrusted, feared, even hated?
How do we create a “disposition of recognition?”
Log out. Turn it off.
Like Anna and Simeon, go to the temple—to a place of prayer, to our homes and workplaces, to nature and peaceful spaces, and to the poor and outcast.
We need to be intentional in creating within ourselves a disposition for recognizing Christ. Then we will be able to say, “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.”
Happy Feast of the Presentation (and Recognition) of Jesus at the Temple.