How are we preparing to meet the Lord of hosts?
By: By Sharon Priester
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Feb. 2
Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 24:7,8,9,10; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40
As I reflected on the readings this week, my thoughts kept going back to the first verse of today’s reading from the Book of Malachi: “Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before men.” The word “prepare” kept jumping out.
The anonymous writer of Malachi is addressing the Israelites who had returned from exile in Babylon. Instead of following the way of the Lord, they had “profaned the temple” and “married idolatrous women” (Malachi 2:11), dishonored the Lord, and were religiously indifferent. He announces what the Lord said: “I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek.”
Since they had not lived their lives as they should have, he asks them if they will be ready to endure God’s coming. How will they prepare for His coming? Will they be pure enough? He warns them that only after they have been purified in the same way that silver or gold are refined in the hot fire will they be able to offer their sacrifice in the temple and be pleasing to the Lord.
SIGN OF SALVATION
In this week’s Gospel, Mary and Joseph, being faithful Jewish people, are bringing their child to the temple in accordance with Mosaic Law. According to this law (Leviticus 12:2-8), a woman, bearing a male child, was considered unclean for 40 days after his birth. After the 40 days, she was required to bring a sacrifice to the temple so that she might be cleansed and present her child to the Lord. So for the very first time, Jesus enters the temple and meets his people, in the arms of his mother.
Among those in the temple was an old, righteous, devout man named Simeon, who takes the child in his arms. Since the Holy Spirit was with Simeon, he knew this was Christ the Lord and said, “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29)
Simeon had been waiting and preparing for this time for many years. He has finally met the Lord, the one who would fulfill the hopes and expectations of the faithful and devout Hebrews. Now Simeon may die in peace.
In the second reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews reassures the people that they would not have to face the Lord of hosts, the King of Glory, alone. He tells them that Jesus, free from sin, had come to earth to be like them, his brothers and sisters, in every way except sin. He came to destroy the devil who had power over them. Through his suffering and death on the cross, he took on the sins of all people, “offering himself as a sacrifice.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 616) “Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:18)
ARE WE READY?
The Israelites were told to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Simeon prepared for years, waiting and praying that he would see the salvation of the Lord. The Hebrews, as a way of preparing to be followers of Christ, were told that Jesus, like them in every way but sin, suffered and was there for them when they suffered. Not only was he with them, he is also with us.
Are we ready to meet the Lord of Hosts? If not, how can we prepare ourselves? What needs to be refined, purified, stripped away so that we will see and experience the Lord in our life? When asked “Who is the king of glory?” will we be able to respond with the Psalmist, “The Lord of hosts”?
SHARON PRIESTER has served as a parish catechist and director of religious education, Bible study leader, RCIA team member and coordinator, and regional director of religious education for the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.