The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas
(I John 2:3-11; Luke 2:22-35)
Fifty years ago Dutch theologian Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx wrote a seminal book entitled Christ: The Sacrament of the Encounter with God. In this work the author showed how Jesus in the flesh signifies God’s love for the world like the Eucharist which he left behind. The idea sounded revolutionary at the time but is now accepted as a legitimate way of reflection on Christ’s redemptive work.
In the gospel the visionary Simeon sees the infant Jesus as “a sign that will be contradicted.” He recognizes that Jesus will manifest God’s redemptive love for all, but that many will counter or contradict him. Indeed, Jesus will become the test for the planet. Anyone who accepts him or, at least, his commandments of love of God and love of neighbor will find salvation. Anyone who rejects him or his message will be lost. Simeon’s reference to the sword piercing Mary seems to include her in this test.
Often we dwell on Simeon’s words to Mary as prophesizing Jesus’ death on the cross which she survives. However accurate that line of thinking is, we do well to open ourselves to the prophecy as a matter of acceptance or rejection of Jesus as sign of God’s love. We will note that during Jesus’ ministry Mary proves herself as the first to follow Jesus by meditating on the events of his life and acting on them. Thus, she becomes as the model of discipleship for all of us to follow.