If you are a parent, you cannot show up to mass blind. You just can’t. Deep down you know this. I mean, let’s discuss: you spend the whole hour shhhing kids and changing diapers and whisper-threatening your 2 year old, amiright? That chaos is not conducive to information retention. Most Sundays I walk out of mass wondering what the flip just happened. I’m sweating, I’m angry and I’m embarrassed that my kids act like, ya know, kids.
Our Lord blesses our efforts, for sure, but simply showing up isn’t “effort” enough and you know that. So, let’s resolve to prepare for mass a bit each weekend, ok? Good news: I got your back! Read my gospel reflection below. I hope it helps the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts in between the fruitless death stares you give the kids.
This weekend we celebrate the Holy Family. The gospel reading is the presentation in the temple. You know the one, right? I’m talking about when Mary & Joseph present Jesus in the temple 40 days after birth per Jewish law. One thing jumps out at me: obedience.
Mary & Joseph
Mary & Joseph’s lives took a huge, unexpected shift, right? They were minding their own business, making plans and living normal lives when WHAM everything changed. Their plan looked like this: get married, move in together and have a human baby. God’s plan turned out to be this: get pregnant with a baby who is not only totally human, but also, totally God and THEN move in together. Talk about a plot twist, eh?
Even though that plot twist changed everrrything, even though they had SO MUCH going on in their lives (and their hearts and their minds) they obeyed and presented Jesus in the temple anyway.
I would’ve been like, “So, ummm yeah, I know technically I’m supposed to show up at the temple, but, like, my kid is God so I’m pretty sure I can get excused, right?” Mary & Joseph teach us, by their example, to remain obedient despite whatever crazy we have going on. Today, for me, this means mass with kids will probably not ever look like I hope it will or expect it to, but I am called to show up anyway.
So, I will show up (because showing up is half the battle) and I will ask for the grace to welcome whatever plot twists come my way in mass (and in my life) because God either willed them or allowed them and He knows more than I do.
Beyond Mary & Joseph’s obedience, we can learn something from Simeon, too. The Holy Spirit made a promise to Simeon, he would not see death before he had seen the Christ. Simeon believed in the Lord’s promise and kept his eyes open for its fulfillment. So, he was able to recognize Christ even though he came dressed up as a plain ole baby. A regular ole baby that a regular ole young, newly married couple brought to the temple for regular ole presentation.
Simeon reminds us that we should keep our eyes peeled for how God is working in our lives, His promises often come in unexpected ways at an unexpected time, and if we are not watching and waiting, we just might miss it.
Our Children Aren’t Ours
The third nugget in this gospel reading is hidden in the symbolism of the ritual. Part of the ritual presentation involved the parents giving their son to God and then buying him back. Which is a great reminder for us. Our children are God’s children first. It’s so easy to forget this, right? We love them so deeply and they become such a huge part of who we are as people, that we forget our kids are on loan to us. We are called to entrust them to the Lord because, as much as we love our children, He loves them immeasurably more. There is peace and obedience in remembering that.
So, that’s what I’ve got. I hope you are able to hear at least a little bit of what is going on in mass and I hope my reflection helps reinforce whatever nugget of the homily is meant for you.