We stand on the threshold of a
new year, 2009. Before we move into it, it might be helpful to pause for a moment
and look back at the journey of the past year. What have we learned from this
year to take with us on the journey ahead? Surely, we have much to be grateful
for and celebrate. It is important to remember various gifts of life and grace,
and express our thanks to God. We might also have some regrets which move us
to repentance and some resolutions. And I suspect that all of us have experienced
losses, which we still grieve. At this year’s end, I find myself mostly
dwelling on these losses.
Today’s Feast of the Holy
Family reminds us that our reflection takes place in the context of family, of home.
Our family is the bridge between ourselves as individuals and ourselves as members of a wider society. Within a healthy home we find the necessary supports and tensions (and we need both!) so as to keep growing
in strength and wisdom and grace, as Jesus did in his home, in his family. Our
Gospel today shows us that we also need wisdom people in our life, people who have experienced the chaos of life in all its
beauty and terror, people who have reflected on the meaning of their own journey, and have prayed so as to see how their journey
fits into the great vision of God. Though our world is filled with many intelligent
people, few are wise. We need wisdom.
Two wisdom people, Simeon and
Anna, enter the life of Mary and Joseph at this special moment of Jesus’ name day.
Simeon had awaited “the consolation of Israel.” The Holy Spirit had promised him “that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the
Lord.” Today, he does see and hold and bless the Christ, and now acknowledges
that it is time for him to pass on. He prays, “Now, Master, you may let
your servant go in peace according to your word.” Anna, a woman of faithful
prayer, also came “forward at that very time. She gave thanks to God and
spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” She, too, will soon leave this life.
The name, Simeon, means, “One
who listens.” I see him as a man listening to God in prayer, listening
to people who shared their problems with him, listening to the movements of his own heart.
The name, Anna, means “Grace.” I see her as a woman who moved
through life gracefully in the midst of her own sufferings and struggles, which she surely must have had with the early death
of her husband and her long life of widowhood and loneliness. They were Mary
and Joseph’s wisdom people to set them on the right path and then leave them.
Who have been the wisdom people
in your life? From whom or through whom did you come to know God as a God of
love? Where did you learn the beliefs and values by which you live? Who taught you to keep looking forward in hope, -- to trust God and have confidence in yourself? Hopefully, your parents were/are wisdom people. But, when
parents have failed, how often has it been a grandparent, or an aunt or uncle, a teacher or friend who guided us gently, wisely,
This year, particularly this year,
through my own losses, through the losses which many people have shared with me, through losses which people have mentioned
in their Christmas cards, I find myself reflecting on words which the poet, Denise Levertov expressed many years ago concerning
the loss of wisdom people in her life.
“This is the year the old
the old great ones
leave us alone on the road.
The road leads to the sea.
We have the words in our pockets,
obscure directions. The old ones
Have taken away the light of their
presence, we see it moving over a hill…”
Yes, the old great ones may have
left us, but we still carry their words in our pockets, just as Mary and Joseph carried the words of Simeon and Anna, words
to remind them how their child belonged to God and how his life was to be the light to all nations.
May we never forget the old great
ones in our life, especially the ones we may have lost this year. And, as we
grow older, may we, through our own prayer and reflection, become, in time, the old great ones to guide the next generation.
At the end of her poem, Denise
offers words of comfort and encouragement. She says:
“…for us the road
unfurls itself, we count the
words in our pockets, we wonder
how it will be without them, we
stop walking, we know
there is far to go, sometimes
we think the night wind carries
a smell of the sea…”
We don’t stop walking. There is far to go.
With the memory and words of the
old great ones, may we stride forth into 2009 with confidence and courage as we continue the journey of our own life.