Weekly Gospel Reflection—02 February 2014
When the time came for their ritual cleansing, in accordance with the Law from Moses, they brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. (It’s written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord.”) They offered a sacrifice in keeping with what’s stated in the Law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.
A man named Simeon was in Jerusalem. He was righteous and devout. He eagerly anticipated the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple area. Meanwhile, Jesus’ parents brought the child to the temple so that they could do what was customary under the Law. Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said,
“Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word,
because my eyes have seen your salvation.
You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and a glory for your people Israel.”
His father and mother were amazed by what was said about him. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, who belonged to the tribe of Asher. She was very old. After she married, she lived with her husband for seven years. She was now an 84-year-old widow. She never left the temple area but worshipped God with fasting and prayer night and day. She approached at that very moment and began to praise God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When Mary and Joseph had completed everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to their hometown, Nazareth in Galilee. The child grew up and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.
When we read these words, we think about something personal. Something individual. “Jesus has saved me,” we say. “I have been redeemed.” “My life has been restored.” While I’m certain these statements are true, we’re missing something vital. Those words are used, not of individuals, but of nations. Communities. If we don’t grasp this reality, then we really aren’t talking about restoration, salvation, and redemption from a biblical standpoint.
Over and over again, the Bible speaks of the whole — not the part. And when it does address the individual, it’s for the sake of the whole. Abraham and Sarah are called, not for themselves, but for the rescue (restoration) of all creation (Genesis 12.1-3; NLT). When St. Paul wrote about personal liberty, he stated it should be put aside for the sake of others (Romans 14).
John Philip Newell tells a story wonderful about St. Patrick in his book Christ of the Celts. He states that Patrick is called into the presence of G_d. When Patrick learns of this, he replies, “I will not come unless all my people come with me.” A second time he’s summoned and a second time he replies the same, “I will not come unless all my people come with me.” Patrick is called a third time and he refuses again. Finally, G_d says, “Tell Patrick to come, and he may come with all his people. But there is one thing he must do.” According to Newell, that’s where the story ends. “We are not told what Patrick must do, but we know that whatever it is, he will do it so that all his people will come with him” (pgs. 26-27).*
Therefore, how can we think that we, ourselves, individually, are somehow “saved” when our families are not? What spouse would let themselves be saved while their partner isn’t? What parent would allow themselves to be rescued and their child lost? I submit, none would. Everyone I know would gladly give up their own lives to save their loved ones. Why do we suppose it’s any less with our Father-Mother? Would the One through whom all creation exists allow even one child to perish? How can any of us claim we’re saved when everyone else and everything else is lost? How is that “salvation”? Any parent that has lost a child will tell you that they haven’t been rescued — they’re lost in a world that no longer makes sense. This is why words like restoration, salvation, and redemption can only be properly understood in community. For it’s in community that they were first uttered and grew. If our salvation is only for us, then it’s no salvation at all. As Alexandre Dumas wrote, it’s “All for one; one for all.”
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
* Newell, John Philip (2008), Christ of the Celts. Published by Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint.