Merry Christmas! - Today we celebrate the FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD - 40 Days since Christmas, which is the final feast of the Christmas Season - (just saw a picture that at the Vatican, the Christmas tree and creche are still on display in St. Peter’s Square) The readings for this feast day can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/020214.cfm. Thanks as always for reading, sharing this blog on Twitter and Facebook - and for your comments and feedback. God Bless, Fr Jim (* oh and Happy Super Bowl - Go Broncos)
I am not a patient person.
There -I’ve admitted it. For some of you who know me, I’m pretty confident that this isn’t earth shattering news or even a remotely profound revelation as you can probably offer your own examples and observations of me that confirm this fact. But it really is something that was on my mind this past week.
You see last week my computer was starting to act up. By "act up" I mean, I got the blue-screen of death a few times; unexpected just "shutting down" of it; and worst of all the computer has been moving slow - really slow. I mean it took at least five minutes for me to open Outlook to get my email - and five minutes more for fire fox to start. (At least it seemed like five minutes). And yeah I had spent time downloading some program, to defragment my drives, clean my registry and all these other things that I have absolutely zero idea what they mean or do - but have been doing only because they promised that it would speed things up.
After some recent frustrations with this computer on Saturday I made the difficult decision that comes every few years for me to purchase a new computer. I argued with myself that I can’t fool around with this thing - the last thing I needed was for this computer to completely die on me. I need it to be more efficient, more reliable - and definitely faster. So I went to Dell.com. which is always comical - because honestly I have so little idea what I’m doing there. Because I’m not a patient person - it’s not like I took a lot of time to investigate or talk to people, ask individuals who might know better what is the difference between MB and GB and how much do I need to make this thing fast and reliable? So I race through the website, I pick something, start clicking here and there responding to different upgrades and all. Get set to order it - and then I get to the shipping section and realize that the soonest I can get this new (and much more expensive than I ever wanted to spend) laptop was 4 days later - on Wednesday! I was legitimately frustrated by that - which caused me to be further frustrated when I started to reflected on my being frustrated! Because in short: I’m aggravated that a computer system with all its programs, specifications, etc (that I had customized) was going to take a total of 4 days to be prepared, shipped and delivered to my front door - all so that I could eventually open my email and internet browser in less than 20 seconds. It’s pathetic: I’m not a patient person.
I know that I’m not alone in this. Last month, there was reports out there that Amazon -
We are not patient people.
One of the challenging things in this instant gratification culture is the effect this has on us in other aspects of our lives. People aren’t patient with institutions: So and so got elected last November, why isn’t everything fixed yet? People aren’t patient with each other: I texted you 10 minutes ago, and on my iPhone I can tell that you received it, why haven’t you responded back to me? People aren’t patient with themselves: I want to go on a diet and lose 20 lbs in 2, maybe 3 days tops.
And people aren’t patient with the Lord: You know God, I took time out from my busy schedule, I came to Mass, I spent a whole hour there (I even turned off my cell phone and tried to pay attention to what that priest was saying up there – something about buying a new computer or something) and YOU STILL HAVEN’T ANSWERED MY PRAYER (and if you have - I don’t like the answer because it’s not exactly what I want)
Today we celebrate a special feast day called The Presentation of the Lord... In our impatient culture that has Christmas trees on the side of the road on December 26th, it’s hard for Catholic Christians to realize that today, February 2nd, which is 40 days after December 25th is the final feast of the Christmas Season. What we celebrate is when the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Husband Joseph bring their child Jesus to the temple to "present" Him - to offer Him up to the Lord. This wasn’t just something for Jesus because he was Jesus - this wasn’t something Joseph and Mary were doing to acknowledge that this was the Son of God. This was something that all Jews did - present and offer their first born to the Lord as a recognition that all children are a gift from God and ultimately they belong to God. So this was a somewhat common Jewish custom.
What was unusual is what happens once they’re there. These two individuals - Simeon and Anna – we meet them this one time in the Gospel - on the surface they are minor characters in the story of Jesus. Because of that, we might have missed an important thing that they teach us about our relationship with God. The need for patience In their day and age - this expectation that many Jews had of the coming of the Messiah was one of impatience and frustration. Partially because they were focused on their own wants, their own desires. We want a Messiah now to kick these Romans out - To punish them for what they’ve done to us, God’s Chosen People - to free us from their rule, their demands, their work and make us a great, a powerful, a glorious nation... Simeon and Anna, saw things differently. They recognized that God was thinking of something bigger than just the temporal needs and the earthly frustrations of His people. These elderly and intimately prayerful people weren’t focusing on their demands, their wants... both of these incredibly humble people were a part of a small minority of Jews who weren’t looking for the Messiah in the next revolutionary, the next "community organizer" or what have you that came on the scene. They lived in prayerful watchfulness - patiently waiting for the Lord. Simeon knowing that once He would see the Messiah, his life’s fulfillment will have been achieved. Anna, who after having a whole life in the world had through age and choice had less connection to the things of this world and found her life consumed with waiting for the Messiah.
They catch sight of Jesus in the temple and instantly they recognize their prayers had been answered. And in a sense it had to have been quite surprising. Of all the ways for the Messiah to come to earth, maybe He imagined a chariot of fire coming down from the heavens to bring down the Messiah? Perhaps... Instead, these two poor people, Joseph and Mary – so poor they have to use the poor persons option in terms of temple offerings of two pigeons rather than the customary offering of a lamb – they come forth with this newborn baby boy - Jesus.
Simeon and Anna who have been patiently waiting on the Lord can recognize the "dawn of salvation"; the arrival of the Messiah in their midst. And that’s enough for them. They won’t live to see how or when things will be fulfilled. They had trusted in the Lord’s promise that they would see the Messiah. And that sufficed. That brought them tremendous joy.
For you and I, we can get caught up with our impatient mentalities that we are missing out on mystery. For example, when I work with college students who try to discern "what is it God wants me to do with my life" - maybe it’s trying to determine what to study, what career – sometimes it’s ‘where’s this relationship going?’ or "Is Jesus really calling me to be a priest?" There’s often this tension "Why won’t God just tell me? Like Now - so I can register for my classes." Like now - so I can break up with him? And when we do that, we lose sight of how God is walking, talking with us. Gently inviting us to be a part of His ongoing story of salvation that continues to unfold in our day and age through our laying down our lives, dealing with the normal human tension that occurs when we do that - but choosing that - trusting that God is acting, God is calling, God is moving through each of us... we just have to be patient in waiting for it to all make sense.
A great Jesuit by the name of Teilhard de Chardin had this prayer called "Patient Trust."
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
we are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability— and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
May you and I make those words ours as we patiently wait for the Lord to work in our lives... finding that true joy isn’t in the instant response to our wants and desires from dell, amazon or anyone else... The joy of Simeon and Anna; the joy of Joseph and Mary - is true joy that comes from the birth, life, death, resurrection and continued presence Jesus alone can give.