Today's Feast of the Presentation, also known as Candlemas, has multifaceted perspectives. Do we discuss the mother's purification after birth, the thanksgiving and offering for the gift of a new child, or the child's dedication to God? Or the revelations of Simeon and Anna? Or Candlemas and Jesus as the light to the nations?
I am blessed to have served as a priest for 17 years in our Holy Cross ministries in Peru. I love Christmas in Peru. As night falls on Christmas Eve, a quiet settles, along with a sense of waiting. Christmas Eve Mass is celebrated around 10 p.m. The Churches are packed for beautiful celebrations as the feast begins, and people return to their homes, yet there is still a sense of waiting—until midnight!
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At the end of a 30-minute sermon on gratitude, a visiting preacher said, "And remember, no matter how small the gift, always be grateful to the Lord." Later, when it was time for the collection, an usher used the preacher's hat to take up the offering. When the hat returned to the preacher, he shook it carefully but didn't hear any sound. Then he turned it upside down. But nothing came out. It was empty!
A couple of years ago, when I was in Ireland, I had the opportunity to climb the Croagh Patrick. This 764-meter mountain is an important pilgrimage site in Mayo, Ireland. I found it a herculean task to climb steep rocks and slippery slopes, even though I was wearing good boots and had two walking sticks. It took me around three hours to reach the top. I was gasping for breath and tired. I thought of giving up when I was halfway to the top. But something kept me going.
In his book 'Taking Flight,' Antony de Melo narrates a beautiful story. There once lived a man so godly. He had no notion that he was holy. His holiness lay in this—he forgot each person's past and looked beyond each person's appearance. He loved and forgave everyone he met; it was his way of looking at people.
The great majority of people in North and South America have seen the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, including non-Catholics — thanks, particularly, to the migrations of Mexicans. Hilary Clinton expressed her appreciation of the beauty of the image when, as Secretary of State, visiting Mexico City, she was brought to the Basilica of Guadalupe and she went on to ask in all sincerity, “Who painted it!" I hope Hilary’s heart was touched to hear the story of how the image miraculously appeared and remains. I hope our hearts are touched today too as we contemplate both the intimacy and the power of what happened.