Today’s readings (Used a “vigil” of this feast for the school children to close Catholic Schools Week.)
Back in the time that Jesus lived, it was a law that every first-born male in a family was presented to God, given to God to do God’s will. They would come on the fortieth day of the child’s life and present the child, along with a sacrificial offering and they would receive a blessing from one of the priests. It hardly seems possible, but it’s already been forty days since Christmas, since the day Jesus was born! How time flies for us!
What’s really interesting is that, in the case of Jesus, his parents were presenting a child to God who came in a special way from God himself. They were giving back to God the child that God only gave them to take care of. Just as every first-born son was presented to God in order to do something special with his life, this first, and only born Son of God and son of Mary and Joseph had the most special thing to do with his life, and that was to lay his life down for all of us.
On this feast day every year, we bless candles to light the Church and light people’s homes. We do that because we remember that on this day, Jesus, who is the Light of the World, was presented to the wise old Simeon, who recognized that Jesus was the Light that was to come into the world. God’s Spirit had promised he would never die until he saw that Light, and now he knew that he could die in peace.
Simeon was at peace because he knew that God was lighting the world and taking care of his people who used to dwell in darkness. The same is true for all of us. The darkness can be pretty scary, can’t it? Certainly when we wake up in the middle of the night and can’t see anything, it’s scary because we could fall over something. That’s a lot like how life in this world can be sometimes. Sometimes the world is dark because of war or violence or people hating one another. It can be hard to see where our world is going in times like that, and oftentimes we fall into temptation or into sin. We need light to show us the way out of all that darkness.
Who is that light? Well, of course we know that light is Jesus. Jesus is the one who came into the world and lit up the world and lights up our lives. He lit up the lives of Mary, and Joseph, and Simeon and lots of people when he was living on earth. Now that he has died for us and is risen from the dead, Jesus lights up our life and shows us the way out of the darkness. Even if we do fall here and there, Jesus’ light helps us to get back up and get going on the path once again.
So as we come to the end of Catholic Schools Week this year, it’s a perfect feast for us to celebrate. The theme for our week has been “Catholic Schools Light the Way.” It’s only fitting to have that theme when we end up on this feast of Jesus, the Light of the World. If this week has taught us anything, it certainly must be that we receive the light from Jesus, that Light comes in a special way through Jesus’ presence in our school, and now we are called to be light for others.
Our school is a place of the Light when we reach out to each other and help those who are in need, whether they need help with their studies, or just need a friend. Our school is a place of the Light when we reach out as one to help those who are poor and needy. Our school is a place of the light when teachers give of themselves, guiding our young people with wisdom; and when students are open to what they are being taught; and when parents make the Light known at home. When we all share the light that we have been given, when we are light for others, that light can light some of the really dark places of our world. Maybe we won’t get rid of all that darkness today or all at once. But little by little, the light we bring by doing God’s will in our lives will brighten our world one heart and mind at a time.
The Lord is our light and our salvation. Whom should we fear?
(UPDATE: I never gave this homily, because the kids had a snow day. So I just preached on the readings of the day, homily below.)