Podcast Reflections

Sermon for Candlemas (Year C)

Listen to a sermon for the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas), Sunday 30 January 2022 (Year C)

On this Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple we encounter faithful Simeon and Anna.

They had attended the Temple many years in faithful expectation that one day they would encounter their Messiah.

I wonder whether they ever doubted that God would keep his word to them?

The reality is that doubt gets into the minds of even the most faithful of God’s servants – think of the disciple Thomas!

Today, the Church is marking the end of the season of Christmas – trees and cribs will finally disappear from churches and cathedrals – and tomorrow we enter Ordinary Time for a few weeks.

The joy and the elation of the Nativity has probably faded from our conscious thoughts – for the majority it has long been a case of ‘business as usual’.

Perhaps the excitement of Christmas has not only passed, but has been turned into feelings of doubt and apprehension?

The aftermath of Christmas can feel overwhelming –

  • family relationships may have been stretched to breaking point;
  • the financial realities of seasonal excess may be taking their toll.

The thousands who flocked into churches in the space of just 48 hours have gone back to their daily lives – not to be seen again until tradition brings them back next December.

Any sense that the world might really find its way along the path of peace and reconciliation has been shattered by the resumption of violence, oppression, mistrust and exploitation.

And yet – today we encounter faithful Simeon and Anna.

In them we see two joyous people who are at peace – because their long-held dreams have come true.

Why don’t we feel like that?

Because of that very human condition – doubt!

The Gospel narrative encourages us at this point – because it makes clear that there is room for honest doubt and uncertainty in the Christian life.

But – we need to grasp the reality that doubt is, in fact, a prelude to faith.

Doubt should never be allowed to become an end in its own right.

We should all be constantly joining in the prayer of the father we meet in chapter 9 of Mark’s gospel –

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.

The capacity to doubt is one of our greatest strengths –

without doubt we would still believe that the earth is flat, and that it is the centre of the universe!

As it is in the realms of scientific discovery, so it is in the realms of faith.

Jesus himself was a doubter!

Jesus doubted that the prevailing cruel regime was the right way, and so he said: Forgive and love one another.

Jesus doubted that there is such a thing as an inferior race, and so he told of the good Samaritan and the bad priest.

Take heart – the capacity to doubt is the prelude to faith.

Strong faith always has to be fought for – 

the problem comes when we give up on faith without a fight.

Today we turn our focus from the joy of the stable towards the agony of the cross –

but we should not be disheartened that the story of Christ’s Incarnation is about to take a darker turn.

Today we should be re-lighting and protecting the light of the joy that was ignited by the brilliance of the star of Bethlehem – and preparing ourselves to carry that light into a dark and hostile world.

Today we should be recognizing that we are not taking that dark and lonely path alone – for Christ himself is always with us.

Christ has already trod the dark path – he has prepared a way for us – he is holding out his hand to protect and guide us.

Today we should be holding out our hands in faith – to embrace the Holy Child and to praise God with our whole hearts. Amen.