There’s always a battle in my house regarding who is the person to take out the dog last – we sit there and we’re waiting. It’s cold, it’s rainy, and it’s late. And the dog keeps sniffing around, taking her time. We call her name and she will lift her head and look at us, but doesn’t make a move: no one is going to rush her. And here you are, out in the cold, asking a dog a question as if it’s a rational human being: what are you waiting for???
I think this experience of waiting for an answer that we don’t know will come sits at the heart of today’s Gospel. There are times when it seems that asking God for help, asking God to reveal His presence to us, seems as much as nonsense as begging a dog to come in out of the cold: we’re talking, we’re reasoning, we’re begging – and sometimes we get nothing.
And when this happens, it’s natural to ask ourselves a whole series of questions: what is it that we’re waiting for? Are we waiting for God? Is God ever going to get here? And when God gets here, will His presence really make a difference?
Even though he’s not a complete answer, I think that Simeon provides the beginning of a response for all of us because…
Simeon is waiting for the goodness of God to come into his life – he has spent his entire life waiting and waiting for the coming of God’s anointed one. He’s waiting because it had been “revealed to him by the Holy Spirit” that he wouldn’t die before he saw what he was waiting for.
What does this mean? How did the Holy Spirit reveal something to him? I think in two ways: through listening and through worship. God still does the same thing for you and me.
And so, I’d like to propose two specific ways this week that we can look around and see what the Holy Spirit is revealing to us.
The Holy Spirit speaks to us in those people around us: not just those that bring us joy, but those that really try our patience too: the Holy Spirit hovers around those on the edges of our lives – if we want to know God’s love, then it is up to us to love God’s poor ones – those most forgotten.
We can’t underestimate the presence of God in other people. This becomes such a flippant, easy thing to say: it is cheap in a way, to claim that we find God in nature, in a newborn infant, in the joy of a family gathering. Simeon kept coming back to the Temple, day after day, doggedly pursuing the voice of God in his life. Simeon found God not only in the good, but also in the waiting, in the bad, and the times in the middle too.
Brothers and sisters, when we go looking for God in our life, we can not only hear the promise of God’s presence, but we can also hear the promise of God through the words of Simeon to Mary: if we remain faith, a sword will pierce our hearts. We know that love hurts. But we know that God loves us until it hurts too.
The second way we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit is right here and right now: through the readings at mass, through the prayers we pray, through the people gathered, and most of all, in the Eucharist we share. By gathering around this table, by breaking the bread and recalling the things that God has done for us, we receive the Body of Christ so that we ourselves become the Body of Christ. This feast of the Presentation celebrates the day that Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple. And now today, we present ourselves in this Temple, so that just as Simeon called Jesus a light to the nations, we too are called a light to the nations. The light begins here, spreads down Dorchester Street and throughout the city. But it always, always starts here!
Simeon recognized that the One for whom he was waiting had come: and this was not because the Holy Spirit was speaking in a booming voice, but because he was always listening.
For the rest of this Mass, let us listen closely to the way the Lord speaks to us – and then when we leave here, let’s remember that the Holy Spirit will speak to us in the most unlikely of places.
In a sense, asking God what he’s waiting for is the wrong question: the better question is the one God asks us: who are we waiting for?