By V. Rev. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.
No one likes to wait. Whether we are at a long stop light, in the check-out line, or waiting for the new episode of our favorite show to be released, we do not like waiting. I think it is part of the human condition. Children, especially, can be impatient. Think back to when you were a child and remember how you felt on Christmas Eve. You can see the presents under the tree, but you had to wait one more night to open them. That was the longest night you ever experienced. Our parents tried to help us, telling us that “good things come to those who wait.” Advertisers picked up on this and devised an entire ad campaign for Heinz ketchup.
Not so long ago, during the Advent season, we reflected on the act of waiting. Watchful expectation. The entire Advent season is directed towards waiting for the coming of the Lord in glory and waiting for the coming of the Lord in the flesh. We continue this theme today on the Feast of the Presentation. The notion of waiting is woven throughout all of the readings for this Feast.
The prophet Malachi is reminding Israel that the Lord is coming, they must be vigilant. And when he arrives Judah will be purified so that once again, as in days long ago, the Covenant between God and Israel will be re-established. The psalm echoes the same sentiment as Malachi. I can just imagine the Israelites singing “Lift up, O gates your lintels, reach up, you ancient portals!” The psalm is telling us to be ready! The Lord is coming! The waiting is over!
Our reading from Hebrews at first glance does not seem to fit into the theme of waiting, but in fact, it describes what we have been waiting for. This passage is a beautiful reflection on what it truly means that the Word became flesh. That God is incarnate in Christ. We have experienced redemption because Christ has shared in our flesh, in our suffering. We are one in Christ.
Finally, in our Gospel we read of two people who spent most of their lives waiting. Simeon and Anna. Luke tells us that Simeon had been awaiting the consolation of Israel. Waiting for the messiah and in fact, the Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he saw the messiah. My mental picture of Simeon is like Father Time, hunched over and with a long white beard. He has been waiting his whole life for the messiah. And finally, the Messiah arrives, as a baby. Anna too had been ceaselessly praying and fasting, day and night, in the Temple. Finally, after 84 long years, the Christ comes.
Our Scripture today is not just about waiting. The message is deeper than that. Each of the characters—Malachi, the Psalmist, the early Christians in the second reading, and Simeon and Anna—did not just wait for the messiah. They prepared for the coming of the messiah. They didn’t just take a number and wait until called. Instead they responded to the call to “Lift up, O Gates!” Prepare for the coming of the Lord! They prayed and fasted. They were vigilant. On this Feast of the Presentation we are reminded that, like Simeon and Anna, we should never give up waiting for the Lord. For good things come to those who wait.
The V. Rev. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., is the provincial director of the Cincinnati Province. Previously, he served as the secretary general of the worldwide Congregation and was also in ministry at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., of which he is an alumnus.