Sunday, February 2, 2014

Why Pray When Things Are Dark?

The Gospel for the Feast of the Presentation, provides to us the examples of Simeon and Anna.  Both were of advanced age, but were awaiting the coming of the Savior.  Simeon and Anna are models of patient endurance.  Both of them were approaching the twilight of their life and it may have seemed unlikely that they would live to see the dawn of the New Creation.  But each of them took up the task that was theirs.  They were both found in the temple.  They were faithful to prayer and fasting.   They simply fulfilled their duties, day after day, trusting that the promises made by the Lord would come to pass.

When I was first ordained as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, things were much different than they are now.  Even then, it was clear that things were eroding and that the local church was living in an imaginary world.  But, there was still a certain sense of stability.  A few years later, with the sexual abuse crisis exploding on the front pages of the newspapers, things began to crumble with lightning speed.  Beyond the abuse crisis--which was bad enough--the Archdiocese of Boston suffered a wave of parish closings, sold all of its seminary property except for the seminary building itself, and is now in the process of a new pastoral plan that has created a vast amount of uncertainty and anxiety among its priests and its people.  With so much turmoil during the past decade, it can sometimes feel as though the peace of dawn will never arrive.

On the Feast of the Presentation, a poor family showed up at the temple.  It is hardly what one would expect to be the dawning of a new age of grace.  But, here we have Simeon and Anna rejoicing and announcing that God had fulfilled his promises.  Simeon and Anna were able to recognize the dawn because they were prayerful people.  They lived their life devoted to their prayers.  Because they were close to the Lord in prayer, they were able to discern his dawning among us--even though he arrived in a most unlikely manner.

At a moment in time when the Church's influence on the culture is waning, when God is disappearing from man's horizon, and when the infrastructure of the Church's institutions are tottering, it can be easy to be discouraged by the darkness.  So too, in the lives of so many people, they can feel as though the darkness only deepens.  Unemployment, illness, strife, discord, and a thousand other burdens that affect people's lives can seem relentless and unyielding.  This is why Simeon and Anna are so important!  They were simply faithful to their calling. They were faithful to their prayers.  And through this fidelity, they were able to recognize the presence of the Light that comes into the world.

Instead of focusing our attention on the darkness that moves across the land and which places everything in its path in shadow, we must go to the Lord in prayer.  It is through a life of fidelity to prayer that we are able to recognize the Light when he appears.  He appears in the life of those who show up and say, "Father, do you have time to hear my confession?" He appears in the life of a couple who take their young children to Mass.  He appears in the life of a woman who spends time each week visiting the sick.  He appears in the life of young college students who come to pray at adoration.  He appears in the life of a young man who is discerning a vocation to the priesthood. He appears in the lives of young people who give a year or two of their life in service to the Church. He appears in the lives of men and women who are humbly serving the Church in the work of the New Evangelization.  He appears in the lives of Christians living their marriage vows and their consecrated vows.  He appears in the lives of Christians living out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.  All around us, the dawn is breaking.

Simeon and Anna give us hope. They show to us that if we are faithful to the temple--faithful to prayer--then the Light will be made manifest to us.  If we focus only upon the darkness that surrounds us, we can miss the dawn.  Simeon and Anna teach us to live a life of prayer.  Prayer makes us able to see that the darkness is transitory.  Sometimes, it can seem as though darkness were a permanent wall that impedes us from seeing the dawn.  In prayer, we see that the darkness--no matter how long it endures--is passing.  Prayer enables us to see through the darkness.  Today's Feast of the Presentation beckons us all to live a life of prayer.  Just as the Mary and Joseph carried the Light of the World into that place of prayer two thousand years ago, we can have confidence that they will also carry him into our prayer today.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this message, Fr. Barnes. I rejoice in the knowledge your witness to Christ will never waiver.