Writer's note: While I am on vacation, I have chosen the bulk of this column from one published in 1997 on this same feast.
At the same time that Mary and Joseph present Jesus to God, Pope John Paul II reminds us, "Mary and Joseph show their intention of faithfully obeying God's will . . . By divine will, it is the Mother who gives Jesus to mankind."
Malachi prophesied the scene, "And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire." Just and pious and well acquainted with the scriptures, Simeon was there to recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of that prophecy.
Anna, too, praised God for the child and looked forward to "the deliverance of Jerusalem," our salvation from sin.
This first visit of Jesus to the temple foreshadows his role of "merciful and faithful high priest before God" on our behalf. The letter to the Hebrews teaches that Jesus became a man for this very purpose, to free us from death.
The story of Jesus' presentation in the temple is the story of the role that we, men, women, and children, play in the history of salvation. It is a story of God's family.
This time of year much of our nation's attention is focused on the Roe vs. Wade abortion decision, and even more so this year by the 30th anniversary. In some ways we are far from real respect for family and from the peacefulness of the Presentation.
The tiny child presented to God and mankind by his loving mother reminds us of the beauty and dignity of human life. His death on the cross reminds us of the hatred and violence that often encircles our hearts and minds instead.
As Malachi prophesied, Jesus will refine and purify us to be pleasing to the Lord. He will burn out the violence and sin that often distorts our acts. The king of glory, the king of our hearts, came to teach us his way of peace.
Our sacrifices of prayer, our acts of peace, our love in the face of the influences of sin - these will triumph, for their great power comes from the one who became like us in all things but sin: Jesus the Lord of life.
With Mary and Joseph, with Simeon and Anna, with Jesus and all who seek God's kingdom in peace, we are members of God's family. "By rejecting all sin and violence, we show that we are indeed children of the Father, brothers, and sisters of the Son, filled with the Holy Spirit.
As Mary and Joseph presented Jesus to God and to all mankind, so Jesus now presents us to God, by his sacrifice on the cross.
Let us recognize him in one another, especially in those who are the most vulnerable. The unborn, the elderly, the poor, the sick, the homeless - all can be seen in the face of the baby of whom Simeon said, "My eyes have seen your salvation, Lord."
Fr. John G. Stillmank is Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Madison and pastor of St. Andrew Parish, Verona, and St. William Parish, Paoli.