Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of November 21, 2007
Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary
1st Reading: Zech 2:14-17; Psalm: 1 Sam; Gospel: Mt 12:46-50
I cannot keep silent on this occasion and I would like, first of all, to point out that you should not get confused between the presentation of Jesus and the Presentation of Mary, these are two different times.
The presentation of Jesus and Mary's purification is what the Church celebrates on February 2, the feast of Candlemas. Today we pause to reflect on the presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In Jesus' time the Jewish law required that for boys, especially for the first-born, the parents would present at the temple a sacrifice to God to thank Him for the gift received. As for women, there was a specific rite.
It was the people devotion to desire a greater similarity between mother and Son, and then as there was the Presentation at the Temple for the Son, they searched and also found a way to celebrate the presentation at the Temple for the Blessed Virgin. The presentation of Mary is celebrated remembering her first admission into the temple when she was about six or seven years old, which according to the then current mentality is more or less the age of reason. We know, because it has been revealed through the letters of God, that Our Lady had the use of reason from the very first moment of her conception, so she does not fall into this category. When this celebration was first set up, it was known very little of Our lady's life, only what emerged from the reading of the Gospel. We know everything about Mary's life only afterwards, for she talked about it at different times and to different people. On the day of the presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Temple, which we can place in time in the very first few years of Our Lady's life, it happened something similar to what occurred when Jesus, in the arms of his mother, entered the temple to be presented.
Nobody saw anything and not even her holy parents, Joachim and Anna, realized what was happening, but it is certain, this entrance was preceded and celebrated by heavenly songs and by the presence of a multitude of angels. It came true what Dante, in the thirty-third canto of Paradise, describes with these words: "Virgin Mother, daughter of your Son" and God can do it because He is Almighty. Jesus is God, Jesus is the Creator, He is Eternal, so in time, as Man, He is the Son of Mary, but in eternity is the One who created the Mother, He gave the Mother existence, in particular, He shaped the body with a soul full of grace. This solemn entrance was also enlivened by a dialogue, a conversation between the woman who was supposed to generate over time the Son of God and the one who would become His Son. It was a moment of joy, of happiness, of delight. On her way back home, Mary certainly kept and pondered within herself what had happened on that occasion. Remember the words of St. Luke: "She kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Lk 2:19). But joy is an experience in life and on earth that often is shattered by very big boulders; the Mother of the Eucharist has disclosed to us that shortly after her solemn entrance in the temple, her parents died. Why let her parents die, leaving a little girl on her own? In this case we are the ones to say that God's whys are not understood. Mary was left alone. She was not only alone, she was also a little girl. At this point there is an additional sad consideration that Our Lady pointed out: it would have been normal for a little girl who lost both parents to be welcome in a family linked to her by blood or kinship ties. However, no relative willed it. One wonders how it is possible that a relative would refuse to take a wonderful little girl, as there never was and there never will be a little girl that can match the beauty, intelligence, spiritual wealth, inner life of little Mary and the piles of gifts God endowed her with. It is absurd that a little girl with natural, preternatural, supernatural gifts, as we say in our Litanies, may be refused. In this case we are faced with the mystery of human wickedness in which we too often stumble. God does not need anyone, God watched over this creature. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit who filled Mary's soul with exceptional and wonderful gifts, took care directly by means of continuous visions, conversations, inspirations and inner dialog. Humanly she was entrusted to Simeon and prophetess Anna, two characters spoken of in the Gospel. About Anna we know only what transpires from Luke's Gospel, namely, she was an eighty-four years old lady, a widow for many years, who used to serve the Lord in the temple. "There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem" (Lk 2:36-38).
The Mother of the Eucharist told us she was her teacher, the one who taught her embroidery, sewing, weaving. Between Mary and prophetess Anna an intimate and special relationship was established, which explains why, several years later, when Mary brings baby Jesus to the temple, there she will find Anna. The old woman represents Our Lady's childhood. She was the one who cared for, educated and humanly shaped her and that is why I like to think that even the Mother of the Eucharist attended the Seminar. This too was part of God's plan. Her education and formation had to be complete in every respect and that is why God hosted her in His house and shaped her to become the Mother of the Messiah. Just try to imagine how Our Lady would have felt when the Pharisees, Sadducees and priests were reading the passages in the Old Testament, passages filled with messianic content. Imagine how the heart of this little girl, of this young woman would have opened to joy and would have throbbed especially when listening to what was concerned with the One who would become her Son because there, in the house of God, she thought hard about her Son. During these years, which we can call the formative years, there was also another great moment: the meeting with Joseph. They met in the temple, in the same place they liked each other, they loved each other and married.
You see how important and nice is to have the inner light, the suggestion coming from above, so we can really enjoy the pages of the Gospel. Let us experience them in depth, let us not stop at the surface, let us not try to deliver abstract speeches, or face useless reasoning. To understand the Gospel we need God to illuminates the person who is reading and the priest who, in turn, enlightened by our Lord, speaks and let people understand and love the word of God and, as Our Lady said many times: "Makes a poem out of every line". Today's celebration teaches us the importance of silence, the importance of prayer, intimacy, meditation and work because in Mary harmoniously coexisted the two figures representing work, Martha, the other contemplation, Mary. They merge together and form a unique identity. We are called to work and contemplate God as Mary did.