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Opening Mass Homily – Luke 2:31
“They gave him the name Jesus.” (Luke 2:31)
Like many, he had grown up with great ambitions. It was all about what he might be, a valiant knight, an admired courtier, a wealthy trader. He knew he had a lot of talents, and this perhaps blinded him to the fact that he was simply interested in himself. It was all me, me, me. Still things were looking bright; his future could well be wonderful.
Nor was he that put out when the cannon ball smashed his leg in a battle. It all went to prove what a bold and courageous knight he was. Surely when he had recovered he could turn up at court and be the centre of attention, the subject of awed admiration.
It was while he was convalescing at home, that things began to go wrong. For the first time in his life his mind started to focus on someone else; someone who seemed far more brave and heroic than he, someone who really had given his life totally for a cause. The very fact of admiring this person pulled the recovering knight into a depression. He began to see that all his self-esteem was a mere sham. At best he was acting out a fantasy, playing a part, but it meant nothing, it was but a child’s game. Thinking about that other person stripped the façade from himself. Now he began to see that much he had done was positively nasty. He recalled those half drunken brawls he had been involved in, which he tried to pass off as macho bravery, ignoring the people who got hurt; his sordid little trick of getting tonsured as a cleric, to make himself immune to the civil law, as church law was pathetically soft on people like him. The self-created hero deflated like a burst balloon as his heart moved away from himself onto that other person. Things got so bad he began to think of suicide.
But maybe the trick was to lose himself, and latch onto that other person instead. After all had not that crook on the cross thrown in his lot with that man – ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom’ – and ended happy. He also must let that man rescue him, be the new source of his life, then he could let go of the sordid person he now knew himself to be. Slowly his heart moved to that other one. He found peace, happiness, energy. No longer did he need to show off.
Are we in the same position, imagining that it is all up to me? I must succeed by myself, or I am a failure. We go neurotic in the effort to build ourselves up, and get deeply upset when we discover our weaknesses. The good news is that there is another who will stand by us, save us from our self-centred egos, set us free from the things we have done wrong. They gave the child the name Jesus – Saviour – because that was precisely what he was destined to be.
The picture above is the ‘Presentation in the Temple (Philippe de Champaigne, 1648) depicting Luke’s 2 21:40