Adapted from the archbishop’s homily for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the annual Mass honoring men and women religious celebrating the jubilee anniversaries of their professions to religious life, Feb. 2, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
It is wonderful to be back home! As many of you know, I’ve been in Rome this week with my brother bishops from California, Nevada, and Hawaii. We were there for our “ad limina” meetings with Pope Francis.
It was a great week for us to be together and to pray and reflect on our vocation as bishops. We spent three hours in conversation with the Holy Father, and he was very pleased to hear about the progress we are making in sharing the Gospel and spreading God’s love here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, and we are also celebrating the lives of our religious jubilarians, who have consecrated their lives to him.
We know that in the Church there are many paths for disciples, many ways to follow Jesus. Consecrated life is a special way of love, and so is the ordained ministry of the bishop, the priest, and the deacon.
But every one of us is called to “present ourselves” to God, to dedicate ourselves completely to Jesus Christ, following him in love and seeking his will for our lives and our world. That is what this great feast we celebrate today is all about.
Today’s Gospel scene is familiar to us because it is the fourth joyful mystery of the rosary. The holy man in the Temple, Simeon, recognizes that Jesus is not just any ordinary child. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he is able to understand that Jesus is the One whom all the world has been waiting for, the living God and the true face of our humanity.
The feast of the Presentation of the Lord is another “epiphany,” another revelation of who Jesus Christ really is. And in the light of his presence, once again he manifests the beautiful possibilities of our lives as children of God.
Our God is not someone distant who doesn’t want to be involved in the lives of his creatures. Our God is the God of encounter, a God who comes from the heavens to be close to us, who comes down to join his life to our life in love. This is the beautiful reality of the Incarnation, “God with us.”
Our second reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews, tells us that Jesus came to share in our “blood and flesh,” and that he “had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way,” except for sin.
What a beautiful gift our God gives to us! Jesus comes to share in our human reality, as a brother, as a friend. And because our human reality includes pain, suffering, and death, Jesus shares in those things as well.
Jesus, who is perfect God and perfect man, loves us so much that he suffered death to set us free from our selfishness and sins.
Jesus comes into your life and mine; he comes to purify our humanity, to return our human nature to its “essence.” He comes to make holiness possible for us, to make it possible for us to offer ourselves in sacrifice to the Lord.
Our lives are made for “presentation” to the Lord. Jesus is waiting for us to love him as he loves us. Jesus is calling to each one of us personally, waiting for each one of us to offer our life to him as a “present,” to make our lives a gift to him, just as he gives his life for us.
And this is a beautiful way to live.
In a practical way, it is important for all of us to continue finding the time in our busy lives to spend more time with Jesus: reading the Gospels, contemplating his life, making ourselves ready every day to receive him in Holy Communion and, as much as possible, to try to live in the presence of God all day long.
This is the real meaning of life, this is what makes our life as beautiful as it is supposed to be — God wants to be with us and each one of us wants to be with God.
So, on this beautiful feast of the Presentation of the Lord, let us ask for the grace to follow the example of our religious jubilarians and to consecrate our lives totally for Jesus, who lived totally for us.
And may our Blessed Mother Mary intercede for us and help us to love Jesus and carry the light of his Gospel into our world, into our everyday work and relationships, that all may know the salvation he has promised to his people.