Summary: "It is essential to draw near to new forms of poverty and vulnerability, and recognize the suffering Christ."
Feast of the Purification/Presentation 2017
Joy of the Gospel
I have a special affection for this feast, which celebrates the bringing of Jesus to the Temple forty days after His birth, because I was baptized on this day seventy years ago. It is called Candlemas, because a procession with candles is often done to symbolize the going up of the Holy Family from Bethlehem to Jerusalem for the offering and prayers. As I get older, also, I find myself in a kind of solidarity with Simeon and Anna, who are remembered because of their faith in the God of Israel, who rewarded that faith by showing them the Messiah before their deaths.
The poverty of the Holy Family is highlighted by the Scripture today. The sacrifice Joseph and Mary made for her purification and in celebration of their child’s birth was the sacrifice of poor families who could not afford a lamb. St. Luke is being very theological here. Jesus made Himself poor so that we could become rich with the wealth of God’s grace. Moreover, He was the true Lamb of sacrifice. Mary, who conceived and gave birth as a virgin, and Queen Mother, needed no purification. Finally, the offering of turtle doves brings to mind the union of heaven and earth symbolized in the Song of Songs. It’s an awesome story that has that scary prophecy from Simeon about the revolution that Jesus would bring to the earth, and the sword that would break open the Blessed Virgin’s heart.
The Holy Father continues in his own musings on our responsibility to the poor: ‘Jesus, the evangelizer par excellence and the Gospel in person, identifies especially with the little ones (cf. Mt 25:40). This reminds us Christians that we are called to care for the vulnerable of the earth. But the current model, with its emphasis on success and self-reliance, does not appear to favour an investment in efforts to help the slow, the weak or the less talented to find opportunities in life.
‘It is essential to draw near to new forms of poverty and vulnerability, in which we are called to recognize the suffering Christ, even if this appears to bring us no tangible and immediate benefits. I think of the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned, and many others. Migrants present a particular challenge for me, since I am the pastor of a Church without frontiers, a Church which considers herself mother to all. For this reason, I exhort all countries to a generous openness which, rather than fearing the loss of local identity, will prove capable of creating new forms of cultural synthesis. How beautiful are those cities which overcome paralysing mistrust, integrate those who are different and make this very integration a new factor of development! How attractive are those cities which, even in their architectural design, are full of spaces which connect, relate and favour the recognition of others!
‘I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking. How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour? Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone! This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity.’
There’s a couple of ways we can get involved in ameliorating this horrible problem of human trafficking, other than giving money to charitable organizations fighting it. One is to make certain our families are teaching the young that sex is for marriage, and marriage is for one woman and one man, exclusively for life. Dry up the demand and you’ll affect the supply. Teach the beauty and sacredness of marriage. The second is to put pressure on politicians and law enforcement to make this a priority: break up the trafficking cartels. And most importantly, to join the Church in praying for the victims and perpetrators alike, so that hearts would be converted to obey the Law of Christ.