Authentic Presentation of Ourselves to God
Readings: (1st: Mal3, 1-4; Ps 23, 7-10; 2nd: Heb2, 14-18; Gos: Luke 2, 22-40)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today, in this 4th week of the Church’s Ordinary time Year A, is the Feast of the presentation of the Lord. As Christ is presented and offered to God today in the temple, the church also invites us to re-present, re-consecrate and rededicate ourselves totally to God. Offering ourselves unto God, total submission of our will, intellect and body to God is what pleases Him as Paul admonishes us: “…in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God…” (Rom 12:1)
Julia Duin in the Washington Times Sunday, February 1, 2009 told this story. Just after midnight on Feb. 3, 1943, an act of extraordinary unselfishness by a group of men became a legend of martyrdom and sacrifice. When the Army ship Dorchester was torpedoed by the Germans just south of Greenland that night, its passengers and crew had 25 minutes to get off the boat. As 902 people went for the life jackets, it quickly was discovered there weren’t near enough. Of the 13 lifeboats, only two functioned. In the ship’s final minutes, Methodist senior chaplain George Lansing Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Dutch Reformed minister Clark V. Poling and John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic priest, were helping passengers leave the vessel. Then four men appeared all of them without life jackets. The chaplains quickly gave up their own vests and went down with the ship, perishing in the freezing water. Survivors saw them, locked arm in arm, praying and singing the Navy hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” just before the ship dove beneath the waves. It was a night as dramatic as the sinking of the Titanic but without a blockbuster movie to record the drama. “The Four Immortal Chaplains,” as they are now known, have been honored many times, including on a stamp issued in their honor by the U.S. Postal Service. The first Sunday in February is known as “Four Chaplains Sunday.” They presented and offered themselves completely for the well being of others.
The prophet Malachi today prepares our minds for the coming of the Lord to us: “And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter the temple… yes he is coming…” The questions we must ask ourselves today is, with what do I meet the Lord, what present have we prepared to offer the Lord when he comes to us in the temple of our being? Quickly, as I reflected on these questions and today’s celebration Jude Nnam’s song come to mind: “What shall I offer to the Lord to make Him happy, oh tell me? What shall I offer to the Lord to please him? If I give him the gift of a car He will not take it… A loving heart, a caring heart, a humble heart, a patient heart he will love…! This is truly the only thing the Lord delights in. If we can present this to him in ourselves he will be happy with us because we would have fulfilled our covenant with him. In other words, the gift of ourselves is the only thing that will keep us standing before him else, we melt away like wax before light. When he comes, he expects us to be strong and holy so as to be able to pass the “litmus test” to which his blazing presence will subject us. Malachi draws the curtain thus: “The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by the lord as in former days, as in years of old.” It is only when we are good gifts to God that he will receive us. So, we must constantly prepare ourselves for the Lord God of Host.
In the 2nd reading, Hebrews in a most intricate manner expounds on the fact that Jesus offered himself to us first. He presented himself unto God as an oblation for immolation in order that we might be delivered. He completed his dedication and presentation in the temple with the final dedication and presentation of himself on the public cross of Calvary; “…So by his death, he could take away all the power of the devil who has power over death, and set all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by fear of death.” For Jesus to succeed in this mission of offering himself, he had to pass through the furnace of temptation (Mtt 4, 1-12). Thus, he presented and allowed himself to be purified and humbled through temptation. However, in spite of this he did not sin, instead he remained pure, holy and faithful unto God the father. He did not in spite of all these betray the Trinitarian agreement that he should come and deliver us. So the presentation which was initiated in the temple was finally made public at Calvary. Little did his adversaries know that in crucifying him publicly, they were presenting publicly to the world the King of kings presented privately in the temple before Simeon and Anna.
The presentation of Jesus reached its climax on the cross. As a toddler, his parents assisted him in beginning the process just as our parents helped us through infant baptism and child dedication. However, as an adult he climaxed his presentation and offering of himself by shamelessly going public on the cross. On the cross, he seemed to say to us by the spreading out of his hands: “I am now a “PLC or PLP” That is “a public liability company or person.” By this public presentation and offer of self, we are now share holders in the “company” of Jesus Christ. It is however important to note that as share holders in his company, on demand we are expected to present our share certificates in order to claim our dividends. What is this share certificate? It includes our holy, purified and humble self as well as the many souls we ourselves have touched and harvested for Christ. The lessons we are to learn from this include that there is no limit to which one can present and offer oneself to God and humanity. Our lives like that of Christ and the four immortal chaplains in the story above must be presented and offered as a sweet smelling sacrifice for the salvation of others. Like Christ, we must pass through the great furnace or crucible of temptation and oddities in order to be prepared for the great offering of ourselves to God and for the sake of humanity. The presentation initiated by our own parents through our infant baptism and dedication in the church must be taken to its crescendo by our own actions, faith and self immolation.
Today’s gospel reminds us that God is faithful to his promise especially to those who love and have faith and hope in him. Like Simeon and Anna, their eyes shall see the salvation of the Lord. Malachi’s prophecy in our first reading was fulfilled in the life of Simeon and Anna in today’s Gospel. This is because, they encountered the Lord in a fashion and at a time they least expected. They knew about him, longed to meet him but never knew when this meeting would be until this sudden day of his presentation when their desire sustained by their hope and faith were fulfilled. Hence Simeon sang the Nunc dimittis: “At last all powerful master you give leave to your servant…for my eyes have seen your salvation…” A very important significance of today’s celebration is that we must re-consecrate and rededicate ourselves to God afresh, we must continue to offer ourselves to him and for his service unending not only in the temple but every where we find ourselves. So let us pray that God who enabled Jesus to present himself in body and flesh today may sanctify and purify us in body and mind so that we might authentically present and offer ourselves to him as well to his glory.
Peace be with you!