The ministry of showing up
A reflection for the Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas by Zac Davis, senior director of digital strategy
Find today’s readings here.
“According to the law of Moses,
the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord.” (Lk 2:22)
They are tired. It has been an exhausting month, filled with travel and caring for a newborn. Jesus may be the second person of the Trinity, but thanks to the incarnation, he is also fully human and subject to the biological throes of the first weeks of life. Mary helps the newborn king sleep, feed and digest while her own body recovers from the trauma of birth. Did they leave the manger for a modicum of more comfort? Luke does not say.
Yet, here they are. Mary and Joseph bring their new child, the son of God, to Jerusalem.
According to the law of Moses. Of course they’ve shown up. It’s what they do. And when they arrive, they meet Simeon, to whom the Holy Spirit revealed that he would not die before meeting the Christ. There is also Anna, an elderly widow who spends every waking moment of her life in the temple. Yes, there are prophecies with cosmic proportions. But linger for a moment on the interpersonal drama: The mere presence of Mary, Joseph and Jesus has given an old man a dying hope fulfilled and a lonely widow a sense of gratitude and mission.
The older I get, the more and more I appreciate the ministry of showing up.
Now, I don’t want to suggest that Mary and Joseph are simply just going through the motions to fulfill the Mosaic law. But I would certainly believe it if they were a bit distracted and tired. And yet it didn’t diminish the unfolding of God’s action.
We could limit this insight to our “religious” obligations, like going to Mass on Sunday whether we feel like it or not. But there’s another lesson to be gleaned from the story of Simeon and Anna.
The older I get, the more and more I appreciate the ministry of showing up. If a friend is struggling, we don’t have to have all the free time in the world to stop by. We don’t have to have the perfect words to say in order to sit and listen. We can be anxious and worried and still show up to a funeral, a wedding, a birthday brunch. And we can pray through the intercession of the Holy Family that our presence might be a light of revelation to strangers and friends alike.