By Fr. Tom Hurley
Sunday, February 5, 2017
I remember many years ago when I was a young associate on the south side, the pastor I was working with at the time became very ill, and unfortunately he had to take a leave of absence for about three months. Being only three years ordained and not feeling very confident, I was then left as the administrator of the parish until the pastor’s return. On one hand, being alone and being responsible for the parish was both exciting and exhilarating. It forced me to grow and be more attentive to the many demands of parish life. But then came Columbus Day. I was called early in the morning by the Chicago Police to inform me that our maintenance man had been struck and killed by a Metra train and they requested that I go to the scene to both identify and anoint him, which I did. It was an awful experience. (Pray for all those First Responders out there!)
Afterwards, I had the responsibility of sharing this devastating news with his brother, then his elderly mother, and finally his adult children. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do as a priest in twenty years. The next day, I was called by the school to respond to a bad situation which happened among some of our 8th grade students. Then, the Music Director called and asked me to help “put out a fire” among the choir members who were about ready to walk out on him. In two short days, it felt like the roof of the church was caving in on me and it wasn’t fun. On Wednesday of that week, I found myself alone in my room and I had just opened the book of Christian prayer and there jumping out at me were the simple words of the psalm, “It is the Lord!” It is the Lord who sets prisoners free; it is the Lord who gives sight to the blind; it is the Lord who feeds the hungry…..And for this sacred time, in the midst of chaos, I truly felt a sense of calm and God’s presence.
I thought of that this past Thursday, February 2, as we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. In case you were wondering, the Presentation (or Candlemas Day) celebrates the 40th day since Christmas and the moment when Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple, according the law and prescription of their day. I love Candlemas Day, because the Gospel text from Luke shows us the picture of two marvelous characters, Simeon and Anna. We are told that this faithful twosome are advanced in years and they have waited a very long time to see the One whom God would send to the world. Jesus is called a light to the nations in this text and this light will dispel the darkness.
I think Simeon and Anna represent the best of fidelity in prayer and trust in a God who walks with us especially in our darkest moments. These iconic characters of old show us what can happen if we allow ourselves to be open to the moments when God’s light enters our space. It’s like sitting with the psalms after a string of days filled with challenge and suddenly the words of scripture literally jump out at you and enter your soul. We have to be patient. We have to wait. We have to keep ourselves open to the surprising ways God speaks to the human heart.
The other thing I love about Simeon and Anna is that they represent the elders among us. Elders are wisdom figures. They lead by example. They people of inspiration who show us an encouraging, life-giving way. Any time I come across this text about Simeon and Anna I can’t help but think fondly about my own grandparents and a few great aunts who blessed my life growing up. I continue to be inspired by their living memory and their wonderful example as people of faith. They weren’t just people of “another generation.” These are, in my opinion, member of the “greatest generation” (Thank you Tom Brokaw) whose simplicity of life and fidelity to the life of the church and their own prayer life are a treasured gift. I continually think about my grandparents and great aunts who inspired and influenced my own vocation to becoming a priest.
In our technologically advanced world and a culture that has shifted dramatically from that of the greatest generation, let’s not forget their unbelievable example of faith and prayer. Let’s give thanks for the many Simeons and Annas in our own lives who were the first to share faith with us and those who remained faithful in the Temple even in the midst of sorrow and disappointments.
Have a great Super Bowl Sunday and a wonderful week ahead. Please don’t forget about our Valentine’s Mass next Saturday February 11th at 6:00 p.m.
Father Tom Hurley
P.S. Keep in touch on Twitter and Instagram! @TomHurleyOSP