If only we had never sinned – we would be able to recognise God when He walks among us.
Today, on the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord the Gospel recounts the story of Christ’s presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:22-40). In the Gospel, Simeon says, “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation,” because the Holy Spirit had told Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. The prophetess, Anna, who had lived in prayer and abstinence preparing to meet the Messiah for 84 years as a widow after her 7 year marriage, like Simeon, also recognised Christ at the Temple.
Simeon and Anna saw the Infant Christ and immediately RECOGNISED Him as God.
It is no secret that I have been praying very much for those dearly departed from us in recent times. Yesterday, my mother cleaned out my late aunt’s fridge and had to throw away the chicken that Farida had prepared to cook for lunch on the day she collapsed only a few short days ago.
Farida was not planning to die – she was living her life – visiting the hairdresser and cooking and cleaning and socialising as usual. And then – on THAT day – God said, “Come home. Come home now.” And home, Farida went.
Listening to the Gospel today in Mass, it seemed to me that in an instant I was transported to that Temple of the Presentation.
I could suddenly see so clearly the faith of those seers, having waited such a very long time – well into their old age – relying on a promise made by God. Surely during their lives the years must have dawned one after the other and these two would have been tempted to give in and to re-think what they had heard from God. How easy it would have been for them to attempt to rationalise their faith away until it turned to dust. How easy to tell themselves, that they were mistaken and had imagined the whole episode.
And yet – they did not.
Instead, they devoted their long lives to God, and believing what He said, acted in preparation and expectation of His coming.
They waited a long long time listening to the echo of that promise deep within their hearts when all the worldly voices surrounding them would have tried to drown them out.
Imagine God – through the mystery of the Trinity – on the morning of the Presentation. Imagine His infinite excitement to finally reward the fidelity of these holy seers. Imagine how He watched Simeon carry the precious Christ-child in his arms and realise – KNOW – that this was the moment that Simeon had waited a lifetime to experience.
Imagine the joy and the utter ecstasy of the seers to KNOW – to really KNOW – that God was here.
They were able to KISS THE HOLY FACE OF GOD HIMSELF! That was the reward for their long and faithful wait.
In past times, I felt that the story of Original Sin in Sacred Scripture was showing us how God DENIES us knowledge.
How ignorant I truly was!
Today, I humbly recognise the TRUTH. God does not DENY us knowledge… He wishes to BESTOW it upon us!
When God commanded Adam and Eve to refrain from eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, His intention was not – as the Evil One would have us believe – to DENY us knowledge. God denies us NOTHING. His intention was to BESTOW on us a more complete knowledge of Him, which is only possible through the innocence of sinlessness.
When we ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree, we did not gain knowledge – we did not gain anything at all – we LOST - EVERYTHING.
We had God Himself walking among us and we RECOGNISED Him – now we are blind to God when He walks among us.
We lost knowledge and gained: suffering, sickness, old age and death.
For the knowledge that the Evil One tempted us to sample was not knowledge at all but death that conceals from us the beauty of our infinitely loving God and the joys of eternal life.
That is why Farida had food in her fridge – because she, like all of us, lacked KNOWLEDGE about the time that God would be revealed to her in all His glory.
And yet, imagine her joy and the utter ecstasy of KNOWING God – and seeing Him face to face, when she, like Simeon, was finally able to carry Christ in her arms and KISS THE HOLY FACE OF GOD HIMSELF.
For that is what we do in death after all. We love God more completely and more eternally than I could ever imagine or put into words and describe. And, because in Paradise we can RECOGNISE Him there – we get to KISS HIS HOLY FACE – ad infinitum.
Now, what could be more perfect than that?
For with death there is life, and everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.