HOMILY THEME: Fruitfully Burning Out

BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas


HOMILY: Lk 2:22-40

The second day of February is always special. It is forty days after the Solemnity of the Birth of Jesus on Christmas. And according to Jewish tradition, forty days after birth, the first-born male must be brought to the Temple to be presented to the Lord. So, today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple.

For us Filipinos, we celebrate this day as the Feast of the Candelaria. In English-speaking countries, it is called “Candlemas”. As these names suggest, it has something to do with candles. This is because during the Mass, the blessing of candles takes place. The Gospel tells us that, when Mary and Joseph brought the Child to the Temple, the old and holy man, Simeon, carried Him in his arms and, inspired by the Holy Spirit, prophesied and praised God, calling Jesus as the light of the world, the long-awaited Savior of mankind. Hence, we have the ritual of the blessing of candles on this day.

Actually, the second of February has two celebrations, namely, the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. However, as it is now, these two have been fused together into only one celebration. According to Jewish tradition, after childbirth, the mother is considered unclean. So, she has to go to the Temple for the purification ritual according to the Mosaic Law. And still according to the Mosaic Law, the firstborn male belongs to God: “every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord.” So, Jesus has to be brought to the Temple and presented to the Lord. In order to redeem the child, a sacrificial offering has to be made in the Temple. Being poor, Mary and Joseph offered “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

The example of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph gives us two lessons that will help us become pleasing to God. First, humble obedience. Mary and Joseph knew that the baby they have is the Son of God. There is no need to present Him in the Temple. But in obedience to the law of God given through Moses, they still went to the Temple and did what the law prescribed.
Obedience is never easy because it means surrendering one’s self to the authority of another person. But for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it is not difficult because they are truly humble in spirit.

The second lesson is generosity. The law of God states that all the first fruits should be offered to God. In a more special way, every firstborn male belongs to God, and should therefore be offered in the Temple. Mary and Joseph did not have any difficulty because it is very clear to them that whatever they have belongs to God. They are very aware that Jesus is the Son of God. It is but natural for them to offer Jesus to God.

As Christians, we should have these qualities of humble obedience and generosity. Obedience is the fruit of humility and generosity. As we light our candles and have them blessed, we ought to remember that we bear the light of Christ. This we do by being always obedient to God’s commands, just like Mary and Joseph. Jesus sums up God’s commandments in one single commandment of love. And love is eloquently and accurately expressed in self-giving: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” Like a candle that gives light by burning itself down, so also we love by giving ourselves to others. As Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “It is better to burn out than to rust out.” Only then can we vividly reflect the light of Christ in this world, driving away the darkness of selfishness and sin, and becoming bright beacons of salvation for all people.

Let me end with this pastoral challenge from Pope Paul VI: “Christ himself says, ‘I am the light of the world.’ And we are the light, we ourselves, if we receive it from him…. But how do we receive it, how do we make it shine? The candle tells us: by burning and being consumed in the burning. A spark of fire, a ray of love, an inevitable immolation are celebrated over that pure, straight candle, as, pouring forth its gift of light, it exhausts itself in silent sacrifice.”

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

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