Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. The Presentation, which is celebrated exactly 40 days after Christmas, is not mentioned in the other Gospels. Only Luke tells the story, most likely because he writes for Gentile Christians who are not familiar with the Jewish rite of presentation and purification. In addition, the intent of Luke’s Gospel is to show that God’s promise to Israel, fulfilled in Jesus, extends to Gentiles.
Luke recognizes Joseph and Mary as faithful Jews who bring Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem. Here they present their firstborn son to the Lord. Jesus is thus consecrated as required by the Law of Moses. Present in the temple at this time are Simeon and Anna. Being presented in the Temple introduces the Holy Family to the community of Jewish believers. We learn that even for the parents of Jesus, being part of a community of faith important.
The importance of community counteracts the loneliness that has become prevalent in our society. Recently, I was disturbed by reading the online article, “Most Americans Are Lonely, And Our Workplace Culture May Not Be Helping” by Elena Renken. In it, she notes that “more than three in five Americans are lonely, with more and more people reporting feeling like they are left out, poorly understood and lacking companionship … and workplace culture and conditions may contribute to Americans' loneliness.”
The article notes that more and more research suggest that the impacts of loneliness don't end with mental health but impacts physical health as well.
The report found several factors that were linked to increased feelings of isolation in 2019. Loneliness appeared to be more common among men. The survey found 63% of men to be lonely, compared with 58% of women. Further, social media use was tied to loneliness as well, with 73% of very heavy social media users considered lonely, as compared with 52% of light users.
In a society where we seem to be more and more “connected” these are disturbing statistics!
The story underlines that in-person connections are what really matter … sharing that time to have a meaningful interaction and a meaningful conversation, to share our lives with others, is important to help us mitigate and minimize loneliness. Where better to have those meaningful interactions than in Church?
As we celebrate the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, we are reminded of how important we are to one another as members of this community of faith. Perhaps today, we could promise to reach out to someone we think is lonely and welcome them to join us for a tea, meal or worship. Let’s bring our Church outside its walls, where many of our people suffer alone.
Simeon had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would see Christ the Lord, the Messiah, before he died. Let’s be ambassadors of that Holy Spirit and be a light in our day for our people here in Summit and beyond.