I think most of us at one point in our lives had the famous trick test in school. Normally, it would involve a teacher who was trying to make a point about the importance of reading instructions. They would write in the instructions that students were not to fill out any of the test, but rather were to put their name on the test and hand it back blank. If you read the instructions, you received an A and if you did not read the instructions and continued with the test, you failed.
Often, we can be a lot like the students who fail to read the instructions. Our daily lives become so absorbed in the things of this world that we fail to be attentive to God’s grace breaking into the ordinary events of life. This lack of attention to the work of the Holy Spirit can have the effect, over time, of robbing us of the vitality and the freshness of the Gospel that is offered to say us at every moment. Instead of a life filled with the fruits of the spirit, we resemble robots going through the motions.
We see a model of the new perspective offered through Jesus Christ in this Sunday’s Gospel. The readings are meant to the highlight the Presentation of Jesus Christ in the Temple. In the Gospel account, we meet Simeon, a faithful Jew who waited patiently for the Lord to fulfill His promises. Simeon is the model of an attentive heart. His life is one of expectation and longing for the Kingdom. He seeks the Lord in such a way that when Jesus comes to the Temple, he is prepared to receive him.
Being prepared for the Lord’s arrival involves awareness of the truth that our Lord arrives at the most unexpected of times. We do not know what Simeon was doing before Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the Temple, but we can imagine that it was probably a typical day for him. I like to imagine that he was going about his day as usual, and that in the midst of his routine, the Lord appeared. What was important was that Simeon was able to maintain a vigilant awareness of God’s presence so that at the given moment, the opportunity did not pass him by.
Although the Presentation of the Lord is a dramatic example of our Lord coming into a person’s life, I believe that Simeon would have been accustomed to the variety of ways that God is made manifest in the common, everyday events. In this way, the arrival of the baby Jesus was not completely new because Simeon had learned to be attentive to God’s presence in all aspects of life. In this way, vigilance in small matters prepared Simeon for the big moment, the one that would define his life.
Every day, we must wait with the same kind of expectation. We must be constantly waiting and watching for the arrival of the Lord. This interior vigilance is the grace of a soul who ponders the law of the Lord night and day (Psalm 1). It is a heart that is alert and awake; a heart attentive to the moment. Let us pray for this kind of docility in our lives.