Christ the King Catholic Church
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The feast actually celebrates two Jewish practices surrounding childbirth which Mary and Joseph, as devout Jews, fulfilled.
The first was the custom of presenting the first-born male child to the Lord. The idea was that the first-born son belonged in a special way to God. The parents would bring the child to a priest and, through a religious ceremony and an offering, they would 'redeem' or buy back the child from God.
The second custom regarded mothers after childbirth. During the weeks immediately following the birth of a child, the woman was considered ritually impure and would remain in seclusion. Forty days after giving birth to a male child, the mother would undergo a purification ceremony after which she would resume her normal life and return to religious ceremonies in the Temple or the synagogue. An offering of two turtle doves or pigeons would be made on the occasion of the purification.
In Luke's Gospel, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple and fulfill both of these Jewish practices.
In the Temple, they meet Simeon, a holy man who had been promised that he would not die before meeting the promised Messiah. Simeon, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, recognizes Jesus as the Messiah and breaks into a canticle of praise in which he thanks God for keeping his promise. "Now, Lord, you may dismiss your servant in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation." These are words that priests, and all who pray the Liturgy of the Hours, pray every night as part of our night prayer. "Now, Lord, you may dismiss your servant in peace..." I don't think I could fall asleep without praying those words.
As Simeon holds the child Jesus up, he proclaims that Jesus is not only the glory of Israel, but a 'light to the nations'.
Today is also called Candlemas Day and, in some places, candles that will be used throughout the year in people's homes are brought to church to be blessed on this day.
Jesus is also recognized by the Prophetess Anna as she gives thanks to God and speaks about the child to everyone who will listen. In this meeting with Simeon and Anna the prophecy of Malachi, that we heard in today's first reading, is fulfilled. "Suddenly the Lord, whom you seek, will come to the Temple." Today's feast has also been called "The Feast of the Meeting." It is another 'epiphany' in which Jesus is revealed as the long-awaited Messiah to Simeon and Anna in the Temple.
While the Christmas season liturgically ends with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, in many parts of the world the nativity scenes are left up until the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. In Luxemburg children will gather in the streets with lighted lanterns this evening and will sing traditional songs and will be rewarded with treats by the people living in the homes they pass. Our kids might want to think about that!
This weekend also marks the World Day for Consecrated Life. This is one of the many gifts that Pope John Paul II gave to the Church. He established this day in 1997 as an opportunity for the entire Church to recognize and esteem the gift that men and women who dedicate their lives to God through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience are to the Church. These men and women consecrate their lives to God for the service of God's people - for all ofus.
We have all been richly blessed by the gift of their lives. And, as is the case with so many of the gifts in our lives, we often take this gift for granted. All of our lives have been blessed and enriched by Sisters, Brothers and religious order priests who serve the Church.
For many, many years the families of Christ the King benefited from the Benedictine Sisters who staffed our parish school and many other schools in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The Sisters of Charity founded and staffed Saint Vincent Hospital on the northside of Indianapolis and the Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration founded and staffed Saint Francis Hospital on the south side of Indianapolis. The Brothers of the Holy Cross taught at Cathedral High School for decades just as the Society of Jesus continues to administer Brebeuf Jesuit High School. The Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Theresa of Calcutta, minister to the poor of Indianapolis. The Benedictine monks of Saint Meinrad have educated the majority of the priests serving in the Archdiocese as even now they care for our own Deacon Michael's formation. Missionary Sisters from African and Indian congregations are generously serving in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Sisters of Providence who cared for my early spiritual formation at Sacred Heart in Terre Haute and who gave us our first Hoosier saint, Saint Theodora Guerin.
We have all benefited from the ministry of these men and women who have consecrated their lives to God. On this World Day For Consecrated Life, let us recognize the gift that religious are to us and the Church and pray for vocations to the religious life in the many and wonderful forms it takes.
How fortunate we are on this very weekend in which we mark the World Day for Consecrated Life to welcome the Little Sisters of the Poor to Christ the King. These spiritual daughters of Saint Jean Jugan place their lives at the service of the elderly poor around the world and minister in our midst at Saint Augustine Home here in Indianapolis. I know that several parishioners volunteer at Saint Augustine and see firsthand the care the Sisters have of the people fortunate to be in their care,
Often times we are given the opportunity to support worthy causes in the Church through special collections. Sometimes those causes assist people who live far away from us and sometimes, like this weekend, we have the opportunity to support causes close to home. The second collection that will be taken up after Communion will assist the Little Sisters to care for the residents of Saint Augustine Home.
We are delighted to welcome the Sisters and to share in their ministry of caring which is also our ministry of caring. Let us welcome Sister Margaret as she shares with us the ministry and the needs of the Little Sisters of the Poor.