The Sixth Day within the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord
(I John 2:12-17; Luke 2:36-40)
There is a story about disciples asking their spiritual master if there is anything they can do to become enlightened. The master replies that they cannot do any more to be enlightened than they can to make the sun rise. The disciples then complain of what good are all the spiritual exercises the master has taught them. The master answers, “To make sure that you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.” The readings today reveal this truth.
The first reading sounds very harsh. It commands that people do not love the world that has given them a home, a sense of God through nature, and wonderful friends. Of course, the reading is only warning that the affection people have for the world be tempered. It implies that the world also contains distractions leading them from the path to God. Spiritual exercises assure that we not love the world too much. Anna in the gospel passage has been leading an intensely spiritual life for decades. Now she reaps dividends from her practice. She can recognize Jesus, the rising sun of justice.
We too must develop a proper regard for the world. Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Sì has invited us to a deeper appreciation of the good of the earth. But to cultivate that appreciation we have to discipline ourselves according to the spiritual life. We need to see that excessive enjoyment of material goods will move us to love them more than their Giver. We will lose sight that God, the greatest good, transcends what we see, hear, and touch. Indeed, overindulgence in material creation will not only lead us from God but will lead to the destruction of the created world.