Monday, February 20, 2017

The Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation in the Temple

The following is the thirteenth of twenty monthly reflections about the Mysteries of the Rosary as they relate to family life.  The mysteries will not be necessarily chronological but presented as they interact with the liturgical year.

            When a baby is born, there are various presentations that take place.  One of my favorites as a father has been presenting my newborn children to their mother Stephanie for the first time.  She has, after all, been doing all the work!  But when I have placed our babies cheek to cheek with their mother, any difficulty has been momentarily forgotten, and I have had one of the rare chances in life to witness pure, uninterrupted joy.  However, the presentation I most closely associate with this month’s rosary mystery is when my wife and I have brought our children to baptism.  Like Joseph and Mary, we have fulfilled a hope and expectation of the religious heritage we wish to pass along as a precious gift to our children.  Whenever we have done so, my mind has inevitably drifted to my children’s and my future as well.  How will we shape them to be holy people?  Will we be as proud to present them to God in eternal life as we were on their baptismal day?  And finally, am I directing my own life in a way that others would happily present on the day of salvation?
            There are many moments in life when we prepare each other or ourselves for presentations of some sort.  I think of a parent talking with a son or daughter about how to act on a first date, a friend or counselor putting someone through a mock interview before the real one, or the small army of assistants a bride sometimes has in preparation for a wedding!  All of these presentations are for pivotal moments in life, but we do run the risk of only concerning ourselves with passing things such as what clothes we are wearing, our physical appearance, or our social or career status should we be successful.
            Our sacred imagination leads us to ponder a different sort of principles in considering life’s presentations.  We think about treating a first date with respect, if a certain career move will enable us to glorify God with our talents, or if we have sufficiently prepared to honor the marriage vows our whole lives.  In short, we begin to view things from a divine rather than human lens.
            I can only wonder at Mary and Joseph’s thoughts as they spoke with Simeon at Jesus’ presentation.  They had already been through a great many remarkable things surrounding Jesus’ birth: the angelic announcement, the pre-marital crisis, the journey to Bethlehem, the stable, and the extraordinary visitors.  Now they were in front of a man who had prayed for preservation from death until he would meet their child.  Many of Simeon’s words would inspire excitement about Jesus’ potential, but they were also laced with a sense of foreboding. Talk of Jesus being a sign of contraction and his life a source of sorrows for Mary are not typical things a person would say about an infant.  Yet, here again we have someone viewing things as God does instead of how human beings might.
            This story inspires us to change our perspective.  Instead of being overly concerned with the minor presentations that will be a part of our lives, we take a longer look and consider everything in light of our final presentation before God at the end of our lives.  And when we are at our best and most loving, we help others to do the same instead of sidetracking them with trivial matters.  As St. Paul suggests in his Letter to the Philippians, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”