NB. OK. . .I confess: this one is a little weird. Too much afternoon coffee!
5th Day of the Octave of Christmas
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans
Listen Here (5.30 Mass)
Listen Here (5.30 Mass)
A devout and righteous man named Simeon went into the temple and laid eyes on the child Jesus. Having been promised by the Lord that he would not see death until the coming of the Messiah, Simeon blessed God for allowing him to be a witness to the Christ. Simeon sings out his praises to God, turns to Mary and Joseph, blesses them, and says to Mary, “Behold, this child is destined . . .to be a sign that will be contradicted. . .so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Just what every mother wants to hear about her son! A warning that he will grow up to be a sign of contradiction whose very presence will reveal the true nature of every man's heart! Of course, this warning is not original with Simeon. The prophet Isiah reports that the Lord encouraged him to “conspire with the Lord of hosts; [I] shall be your fear, [I] shall be your dread.” Similar to the warning Simeon offers to Mary about Jesus, Isiah reports that the Lord said to him: “[I] shall be a snare, a stone for injury, A rock for stumbling. . .A trap and a snare"(Is 8). The Christ is a sign of contradiction and the Lord of Hosts is a stone of injury. We are left to wonder how we got from the tender manger scene of the Nativity with the adoring Magi to this ominous scene in the temple with Simeon warning Mary about the destiny of her child. How does the Baby Jesus become a sign of contradiction that reveals men's hearts?
As we have already noted, Simeon's warning to Mary echoes the warning given to Isiah about the Lord of hosts. From this parallel we can see that Simeon is pointing to the Christ-child and saying, “This child is the Lord of hosts!” In the same way that the Lord of hosts is a stumbling block and a snare, so the Christ will be a rock upon which men will break their hearts. How is this possible? Because Christ is the Lord of hosts who gave this warning to both Isiah and Simeon! The child is the Lord but he has yet to become a sign of contradiction b/c his public ministry is still some thirty years down the road. What Simeon sees and declares is that the arrival of the Messiah into human history is like a gigantic boulder being dropped into a settled pool. Many have seen the splash but few have yet felt the waves. When those waves come to crash against hardened human hearts and closed human minds, the contradictory nature of the Messiah will split them wide open, revealing for all to see the truth buried within. Just yesterday, we read about Herod's heart and mind being cracked open by the arrival of the Christ. The truth revealed within lead to the slaughter of thousands of innocent children, all murdered to placate one man's fear.
When the waves of the incarnation crash against heart and mind, what truth will be revealed? More importantly, what will you do with that truth? Will you surrender it to Christ and bend your will to his? Will you declare your truth to be uniquely privileged, entitled to respect and deference even if it means denying God's will for you? If the truth revealed in your heart and mind aligns with God's will, will you act on it in love, uniting yourself with the Christ? John writes, “. . .whoever keeps [Christ's] word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. . . whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.” Walk just as Christ walked and become a sign of contradiction for his sake. Just remember the martyrs: Stephen, John, and the Holy Innocents. For that matter, remember Christ Jesus. And you will follow him all the way to Jerusalem and the Cross.
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