The Presentation: Beginning the Culture of Encounter
It’s been forty days since we celebrated Christmas (does it feel like that?). Now, we are called together to celebrate the Presentation of the Lord, who came to the Temple and revealed the fulfilment of God’s promises to the People of Israel. Simeon and Anna are there to experience this blessed moment; and the entire scene teaches us about our own role as missionary disciples.
Our faith is all about an encounter with the Lord. Jesus never wanted to leave us
lone or without the ability to truly meet Him and have our lives changed by that encounter. Through the Church, and specifically through the Sacraments, Jesus is made present in the world, and He encounters countless people who are waiting in hope of newness of life. This is exactly what Christ came to give to the world. And through the Church – through you and me – Jesus meets people over and over again, in order to change lives.
Therefore, it must be our constant focus as a parish family to first encounter Christ ourselves, and then to share that saving encounter with others. Here in our temple, Jesus comes to us and reminds us of the incredible work that He has done for us. Then, we are sent out as missionary disciples to continue Christ’s work by allowing others to encounter Jesus through our love and good work – through our charity in action. This is the authentic living out of the Gospel for every Christian: that we have had a real encounter with Jesus, that we have been changed by that encounter, and that we are now on fire to share that encounter with everyone we meet. What does this look like?
This weekend, and for the next two weekends, we will be conducting the Archdiocesan Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries, through which our parish has the opportunity to be an integral part of the work of the local Church in allowing others to truly encounter the saving presence and work of the Lord. Each year, thousands of our brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Baltimore are blessed to experience Christ’s love and power through ministries that are made possible by our faithful support.
This year, our parish goal is $88,255.00. I know we can do this; but even more than the dollar amount, my goal as your pastor is to see more and more of our parish families participating in this appeal. Last year, we pledged $73,000 on the strength of 327 individual gifts. Even if you cannot make a huge gift, we can all make something; therefore, I urge you to consider making a pledge next weekend when we conduct our in-pew process. Our parish also benefits, receiving 25% of everything we raise up to the goal, and 50% of anything over and above that goal. Imagine what we could do with that blessing!
Our generous support goes to allow twenty-four ministries of our local Church to touch the lives of countless people right here in Baltimore and Maryland. For example, our charity is experienced by the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, which helps young people and their families heal from the pain of abusive homes and relationships; we assist our poor neighbors through the work of the St. Vincent DePaul Society of Baltimore; we bring Christ’s love and presence to men and women in prison, and we bring comfort and healing to those in hospitals through the work of our dedicated Chaplains; we put our money where our mouth is in our strong support of crisis pregnancy centers, which help frightened mothers and families to receive prenatal care, and to provide a stable, loving home for their child.
With these, and many other ministries, we extend Christ’s presence in our community – just like Simeon and Anna, who encountered Jesus in the Temple and then took that transforming experience and shared it with everyone who had been awaiting God’s response to their prayers. So many of our neighbors, friends, and brothers and sisters are also awaiting that encounter with Jesus. Our Church – our parish – must be a place where that encounter is real; and we must be the people who are touched first by Christ here, in our temple, so that we can be the answer to their prayers as we share Christ with those broken, lost, and longing people.
As Jesus is presented in the Temple He is already transforming the world He came to save. God keeps His promises! Our response to this encounter with the Lord should reflect our immense gratitude that our eyes have seen the salvation which God has prepared in the sight of all the people: a light for revelation to the world, and glory for us, His people.