Mary, one with her Son to the end
February 2, 2003

Al Cariño
Presentation of Jesus in the temple
Reproduced with Permission

Before the Mass, the priest blest the candles we brought in these words: "God the Father, source of light, today you revealed to Simeon your Light of revelation to the nations. Bless these candles and make them holy. May we who carry them to praise your glory walk in the path of goodness and come to the light that shines for ever." We then sang or recited the antiphon "Christ is the light of the nations and the glory of Israel his people" as the priest went up the altar to begin the Mass.

"Christ as Light of the nations" is at the heart of today's Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Lk. 2:22-32). The Holy Family had no inkling whatsoever that this would be the case when they went to the temple forty days after the birth of Jesus to fulfill the prescriptions of the law: for Mary to be purified and for Jesus to be consecrated to the Lord, being a first male child. But God arranged that an old man named Simeon to whom was revealed "that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord" would be there at the precise moment. And it was in the encounter between Simeon and Jesus that what was implicit in the visit of the Magi at the birth of Jesus was made explicit: Jesus would be the Light, the Savior not only of the Jews but also of all peoples. This was the unmistakable message of Simeon's inspired words: "My eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of the people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel."

By Jewish law, Mary got Jesus back by "buying" Him from God in the form of an offering, which for the poor consisted of two doves. But at what price! The old man Simeon tied her to her Child's mission which led to His passion and death. For to her Simeon said: "This child is ... a sign that will be opposed and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword." As she received her Son back, both of them would now be united in one mission: the mission of obedient suffering. Thus the Presentation event already linked Christmas to Easter; it linked Jesus' birth to His death and the glory of His resurrection. And Mary would be with Jesus till the end.

We see many incidents in the gospel where Jesus was opposed: the three temptations of Jesus by the devil; His driving out of the vendors from the Temple because they had made His Father's house a den of thieves; His expulsion of demons from possessed people; his scathing remarks against the Scribes and Pharisees for misleading the people; His rebuke of Peter whose opposition to His suffering and death came from the devil; His sorrow that the devil had entered Judas thus betraying Him, etc. In the end, Jesus was arrested, underwent a mockery of a trial and was put to death. Only to be raised by the Father in glory on the third day.

All of these, especially Jesus' passion and death, were like swords that pierced Mary's heart. But she accepted them all in obedience to the Father's will. For was not her destiny tied together with her Son at the Presentation? But His death was not the end. With His resurrection, He become victorious over sin and death. And because Mary was at His side every step of the way till that victory, she shared its joys with Him.

At a more human level, Mary shared the experiences of any mother vis-a-vis her new born child: the child's birth is also the beginning of losing him. In the beginning, she cuddles her child, gives him milk, cleans him, and carries him next to her heart. When he gets sick, she is there for him. Before long, he begins to utter a few monosyllables -- the beginning of his association with others. Then he begins to roll, sit up, crawl and walk - away from her. Later, he leaves home as she brings him to school. Then he acquires new friends and spends more time with them than with her. With the passing of each year, the child goes farther and farther away from her -- to college, to work. At his own marriage, she gives him to another woman with whom he forms his own family and sets up a home.

No, Mary was no stranger to being slowly alienated from or even losing her Child. And unlike any mother's, in a most ignominious way. But never mind. For like her Son, she had only one desire: to do the Father's will.

We have accepted Jesus, the Light of the nations, as the Light of our lives by our Baptism, and symbolically, by the candles we lit before the Mass. Let those candles be symbols of our commitment to live our baptismal vows by uniting ourselves with Mary. There will certainly be many obstacles and pains along the way. But Mary will always be at our side just as she was at Jesus'. And if we remain faithful to the end, then like her, we, too, will share the joys of Easter, and after this life, eternal happiness.