Some of our most beautiful architectural creations are synagogues, cathedrals, mosques, temples of every kind. Believing people express religious sentiments in the structures they set apart for prayer. It is there that they unite themselves in a special way with God, so the place itself is considered sacred. The readings for this feast are related to such a sacred place or to the rituals that are enacted within them.
Both the first reading and the psalm speak of the coming of God to the Temple. The psalm is a kind of processional song announcing God’s arrival. Malachi warns that God comes to cleanse the Temple of all impurity. This means more than simple housecleaning. It refers to reform.
The Gospel puts all the readings into the perspective of the feast of the Presentation. It reveals the true identity of the child. He is the light of revelation to the nations, the sign that will be contradicted, the strong and mighty king of glory who comes to the Temple, the faithful high priest who stands before God in the name of others. Because he comes in weakness, as a helpless child, he is recognized only by those who are strong in faith, like Simeon and Anna. Would we recognize him?
God continues to dwell in our midst, and even though we acknowledge this, we frequently miss the traces of God’s presence in our lives. How have we dealt with our profound disappointment in the church when ritual is shallow or leadership is undependable? Do we look for someone to blame? Do we give up? Or do we see this suffering as an opportunity for purification? Do we believe that God is in our midst, eager to reform us?
Most of us are indistinguishable in a crowd, yet each of us carries great potential. By baptism we have been made temples of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the integrity with which we live our lives manifests the presence of God in our midst. Is this obvious to others? Have we grown in wisdom over the years? Or do we still make the same self-centered demands? We may not be expected to spend all of our days in the Temple, but God has called us to make the world in which we live a truly sacred place.