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Home : Faith/Spirituality : Columns
Be grateful for the wisdom community

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

Feb. 2, 2014
The Presentation of the Lord
Malachi 3:1-4
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40 or 2:22-32

When I was a youngster, a long distance telephone call was a major expense but it didn’t matter because everyone who mattered to me lived nearby. Life is very different for the young people in my family today. We are scattered across the country and my nephews and nieces rarely see their aunts, uncles or cousins. For the most part, they are at an age that doesn’t believe that “it takes a village.” They have little interest in anyone a generation beyond them unless the person is a relative. Despite family contact through SKYPE, FACEBOOK, and TWITTER, we have lost something. We have lost the stories that one generation tells another and all the things we can learn from those tales.

My mom’s parents were a large part of my life. They always lived with us and they always seemed old. They were storytellers who never corrected us directly. Instead, they told stories of someone who behaved like us with dire consequences. As my grandparents aged and we grew older, their stories were more philosophical and it seemed to me they became wiser and more adept story tellers.

Simeon and Anna remind me of my grandparents who had seen many changes in their lifetime and always looked forward to more. Grandma had her own “bucket list” even though she never heard the term. I remember her counting out the things that she wanted to see in her lifetime. None of her wishes and wants were as noble as Simeon’s but I am always surprised at how many of those wishes came true—some of them after she had died. Oddly enough, many of them had become our own wishes.

Today’s Gospel is a celebration of life lived to its fullest. Both Simeon and Anna were people of prayer and their prayer was focused on the coming of the Lord. Simeon knew that everyone would not greet the child before him with joy. This child would be a sign of contradiction. Some would accept the Lord; some would not. It was very clear, though, that no one would be neutral.

And then there was Anna—a widow who was eighty-four years old. She had known sorrow and had not grown bitter. Her hope was alive. She continued to worship and she never stopped praying. Some would say that Anna continued to pray because she never stopped hoping. It would be just as true to say that she hoped because she never stopped praying.

In the First Reading, the prophet reminds the people that the Lord is coming and says he is sending a messenger to prepare the way before him. The words are as true today as they were when first proclaimed.

Within the faith community, there are many who announce the presence of the Lord in our midst. I see them in my parish community. I meet them in my neighborhood. They are the faithful whose wisdom is gentle like Anna’s and powerful like Simeon’s. I hear their stories before Mass in the vestibule of Church and I hear their wisdom at Coffee and Doughnuts after.

Today we give thanks for the “wisdom community” that is part of our life—those who have matured in their faith and so willingly share it with us.

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