6th Day within the Octave of the Nativity      

            Today’s gospel reading tells us something about the Prophetess Anna who “never left the temple, but worshipped night and day with fasting and prayer.” What did Anna expect to find as she prayed in the temple and fasted for the coming of the Messiah? Was she surprised that the answer to her supplications was a tiny baby, helpless, and dependent on his humble parents? Could this little child really be the “King of glory” whom the psalmist had proclaimed? Here was God incarnate, taking on our own flesh in the most humble way possible.

            Anna had prepared herself for this encounter with Lord in the temple, even though she did not know when or how it would happen. Because of her prayer and attentiveness to the Spirit, she was able to see the splendor of God in Mary’s little child. And having recognized the Child Jesus in the temple, Anna “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child.”

            How blessed are we that the Lord Jesus has come to his temple to remain! In the Eucharist, under the appearance of ordinary bread and wine, Jesus comes to encounter us – everyday. In baptism, he has taken up residence in the temple of our hearts as well. So, every time we open our hearts to his presence and to his words, the Lord encounters us. Again, as Pope Francis says in his Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts of all who encounter Jesus.”

            Just like Anna, let us prepare ourselves for our encounter with the Lord. We may be surprised to meet him in those around us – in the poor and the helpless, in the ignorant and the uneducated, in the lowly and the belittled, in the sick and the dying, even in the seemingly ungrateful and unlovable.

            May we have faith to encounter the Lord as he comes to us in our midst… to see the signs of his love in times of rejection and abandonment… to feel his compassionate love when we are in pain and suffering… to acknowledge his provident love in the midst of poverty and need… to perceive his healing love in our woundedness and brokenness… to receive his forgiving love in moments of weakness and failure.

            The Lord is always waiting for us in his temple, in the Eucharist, waiting for us to embrace him and hold him close to our hearts. His love – stronger than any sin we may commit – will purify us. Like Anna, we will give thanks to God once we recognize and encounter Jesus.

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