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The Rock of Contradiction

Challenge: Do not reject the cross, but take it up lovingly in union with Christ.
by Father Alex Yeung, LC | Source:

February 2, 2009
Presentation of the Lord

Luke 2:22- 40
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord," and to offer the sacrifice of "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons," in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel." The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Introductory Prayer: Christ Jesus, thank you for this moment of prayer. I place myself humbly before you, acknowledging your greatness and your love for me. Pardon me for all the times I choose the world instead of you. Give me the grace to love you more today so that my only hope will lie in you.

Petition: Mary, obtain for me the grace to choose Christ and his Cross.

1. Sign of Contradiction
The prophet Simeon says some amazing words about the child Jesus. Through them, Mary and Joseph discover that Jesus is the Messiah the Jews have been awaiting, as well as the light and salvation for the Gentiles. However, Simeon also prophesies the paradox of the Gospel: Life will come to mankind, but only through death. It is a foreshadowing of the Cross. Mary too is drawn into this mystery. In fact, Simeon prophesies that she will participate in the agony of the Cross: “and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” We cannot fathom the love that Christ had for his mother, and yet he did not spare her from sharing his suffering. This reveals the mystery that, for a Christian, love and suffering go hand and hand. There is no true love without suffering.

 2. The Wisdom of God
A Christian can find many reasons for his faith. However, we must be reminded that Christ’s message does not always make sense on a purely logical plane. I cannot lower Christ’s standards to just what I feel is right, just or sensible. Why do Christ and the Church, for example, defend the permanence of marriage even when the couple has lost the “feelings” for each other and perhaps have discovered serious personality conflicts? Why does a Christian have to be honest and law-abiding when it only hurts his business since no one else is ethical? A worldly-minded person might reason, “A good God surely doesn’t mean us to suffer so much, does he?” Well, here is where the wisdom of God contradicts worldly wisdom. St Paul affirms: “The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

3. Believe in the Power of the Cross
There is no contradiction between happiness and suffering. But this is only understandable for a person who looks to Christ’s example. We need to believe in the cross, believe and trust in its power. It is difficult no doubt, for in our pride, we are unwilling to believe in the cross; in order to believe, we shout at Christ as on the first Good Friday that only if he comes down from the cross will we believe in Him. If Christ were progress and well-being as the world understands it, we would readily believe and accept him; but he is the cross. As in the past twenty centuries, Christ and his Gospel continue to be the rock of scandal and contradiction against which men crash and are divided: the rock that can build or destroy, support and secure our existence or destroy us in our pride. To suffer for righteousness, for fidelity, for honesty, for believing in Christ, out of service to my neighbor––this is the source of happiness that is not only heavenly, but even earthly.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, help me to believe in the power of your cross. So often I spontaneously shun the crosses you permit in my life. Grant me the power of your love, the love you displayed as you hung on the Cross for my sins. By taking up my personal cross, may I be a convincing witness of your truth and love to the world. When my crosses get heavy, help me also look to your mother, Mary, to see how she also shared in your cross. May she never allow me to feel sorry for myself.

Resolution: When fidelity to God is costly for me today, I will not reject the Cross, but take it up lovingly in union with Christ. 

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