Candlemas: The Year of Not Me

By AfterEpiphany.

A short while ago the Leonie’s Longing blog featured an article called “A Year of Not Me” This article invited the reader to reflect upon his or her interior response to the commencement of the Year of Consecrated Life.

It is both easy and tempting to become immersed in questioning one’s own identity before God; our Plan A had involved living the consecrated life and now we’re all “stuck with” Plan B.

At the time I read the article my response was that “A Year of Not Me” was an invitation to go beyond myself, to put aside for a time whatever suffering had arisen upon returning to the world, and to focus on serving others.

The Feast of the Presentation (which has about to be finished for me in Australia, but which is still in progress for those of you on the other side of the International Date Line) is an obvious day of significance, perhaps THE day of significance, in this special year for those living the consecrated life.

Now we know that the feast is often also referred to as Candlemas, and there is a great deal of emphasis on light:  Jesus Christ is proclaimed as that light to enlighten the Gentiles in the Nunc Dimittis prayer of Simeon.  Well this is going to blow your mind.

Who are the Gentiles?
Well, in the LITERAL sense, they are those outside of the Jewish faith.

Who were the Jewish people?
The chosen people of God, those who had been set apart for Him.

What does it mean to be consecrated?
To be called by God, to be set apart for Him.

So perhaps it isn’t too big a jump to consider that one possible allegorical sense of Simeon’s prayer is that those of us who are not consecrated are the ones to be enlightened here.

This feast is for us, too!!!!

Where does that leave us? In this year of “Not Me” I’m sitting here asking Christ, our Light, to enlighten me, a Gentile, as I meditate upon this special event in His life.  One thing that jumps out at me as I ask for light is this: I cannot avoid suffering. Even His much beloved and blessed Mother found her heart on the pointy edge of a sword, even after her “yes,” her obedience, her total life of service and undivided love for Him.

And so I return to where I began: the grief and loss of my former Community? My confusion over who I am before God now that He has called me back out to the world? Those occasional feelings of frustration at the mess of it all, the complication of figuring out what life in His service now means? He shines like a spotlight, focused on His Mother, showing me exactly what to do with that suffering.  It is real. It can’t just be dismissed. But in this year of “Not Me” it just doesn’t have to be the focus. My life doesn’t have to be about that. My life is about Him.  And He and His Mother are both models of obedience, humility, service and authentic love.

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:

my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:

a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32)

Feast of the Presentation

By Misericordia.

“Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.”

When I read this passage from the second reading I stopped for a few minutes to try and absorb this truth of the Incarnation.

Jesus became one of us for our sake.

He was born of His Virgin Mother Mary for our sake.

His mission was revealed in the Temple, his mission to suffer for our sins for our sake.

He hid himself in a childhood of poverty and ordinariness for our sake.

He sanctified the waters of Baptism in his own Baptism, taking on our sins for our sake.

He was tempted in the desert for our sake.

He went out and brought the message of healing and forgiveness of sins for our sake

He suffered loneliness and persecution for our sake.

He suffered all of the effects of the human condition for our sake.

He endured the agony of all of the sins of the world for our sake.

He was scourged and beaten for our sake.

He was crowned with a crown of thorns and mocked for our sake.

He carried his cross to Calvary for our sake.

He was nailed to the cross and crucified for our sake.

He died and was laid in the tomb for three days for our sake.

And then He opened the gates of Heaven for our sake!

What more can we ask for in the sufferings of our life than a merciful God who wants to be united to us in those very sufferings? On the day of His Presentation, Jesus’ identity as Savior of the world was proclaimed by Simeon. Today, when we remember this canticle repeated so often in the quiet hours of night, let us remember the saving work accomplished in his 33 years of life, for our sake. Let us rejoice on the day of His consecration that enable each one of us to be consecrated to God for a specific mission and purpose, for His glory, for the joy of each soul, and for the salvation of the world.