1) Opening prayer
you let humble, faithful people
recognize your Son
and welcome him as the Saviour
who brought freedom and life to his people.
May we too recognize and welcome Jesus
in all that is little and humble
and with him grow up in wisdom and grace
to the maturity of your sons and daughters,
so that we attain the full stature of Jesus.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel reading - Luke 2,36-40
There was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came up just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.
When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And as the child grew to maturity, he was filled with wisdom; and God's favour was with him.
• In the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel, everything turns around the birth of two persons: John and Jesus. The two chapters make us feel the perfume of the Gospel of Luke. In it the environment is one of tenderness and of praise. From the beginning until the end, the mercy of God is sung and praised: The canticles of Mary (Lk 1, 46-55), of Zechariah (Lk 1, 68-79), of the Angels (Lk 2, 14), of Simeon (Lk 2, 29-32). Finally, God comes to fulfil his promises and he fulfils them in behalf of the poor, of the anawim, of those who know how to persevere and hope in his coming: Elizabeth, Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, Simeon, Anna, the shepherds.
• Chapters 1 and 2 of Luke’s Gospel are very well known, but not deepened enough. Luke writes imitating the writings of the Old Testament. It is as if the first two chapters of his Gospel were the last chapter of the Old Testament which opens the door for the coming of the New. These two chapters are the foundation or hinge between the New and the Old Testament. Luke wants to show that the prophecies are being realized. John and Jesus fulfil the Old and begin the New.
• Luke 2, 36-37: The life of the Prophetess Anna. “There was a prophetess, Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. She had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and praying”. Like Judith (Jdt 8, 1-6), Anna was also a widow. Like Deborah (Jg 4, 4), she also was a prophetess. That is, a person who communicates something of God and who has a special opening toward the things of faith to the point of being able to communicate them to others. Anna got married when she was young, and lived seven years married, then she became a widow and continued to dedicate herself to God up to the age of eighty-four years. Today, in almost all our communities, in the whole world, we find groups of women of a certain age, many of them are widows, whose life is reassumed in prayer and in being present in the celebrations and in service to the neighbour.
• Luke 2, 38: Anna and the Child Jesus. “She came up just at that moment and began to praise God, and she spoke of the child to all who looked toward to the deliverance of Jerusalem”. She went to the Temple at the moment when Simeon embraces the child and speaks with Mary concerning the future of her son (Lk 2, 25-35). Luke suggests that Anna takes part in this gesture. The look of Anna is one of faith. She sees a child in the arms of his mother and discovers in him the Saviour of the world.
• Luke 2, 39-40: The life of Jesus in Nazareth. “When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And as the child grew to maturity, he was filled with wisdom and God’s favour was with him”. In these few words, Luke communicates something of the Mystery of the Incarnation. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1, 14). The Son of God becomes equal to us in all things and assumes the condition of Servant (Ph 2, 7). He was obedient even unto death and death on the cross (Ph 2, 8). He lived thirty-three years among us, and of these, he lived thirty in Nazareth. If we want to know how the life of the Son of God was during the years that he lived in Nazareth, we have to try to know the life of any Nazarene of that time, change his name, give him the name of Jesus and we will know the life of the Son of God in the thirty-three years of his life, in everything like us except sin (Heb 4, 15). During these years of his life, “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him”. In another passage, Luke affirms the same thing using other words. He says that the child “grew in wisdom, age and grace before God and men” (Lk 2, 52). To grow in wisdom means to assimilate the knowledge, the accumulated human experience throughout the centuries: the times, the feasts, the medicine, the plants, prayer, customs and uses, etc. This is learnt living and living together in the natural community of the people. To grow in age means, to be born small, to grow and to become an adult. This is the process of every human being, with his joys and his sadness, his discoveries and his frustrations, his anger and his love. This is learnt by living and by living together in the family, with the parents, the brothers and the sisters, the relatives. To grow in grace means: to discover the presence of God in the life, his action in everything that happens, vocation, his call. The Letter to the Hebrews says that: “Even if he was the Son, he learnt obedience through his sufferings” (Heb 5, 8).
4) Personal questions
• Do you know any persons like Anna, who have a look of faith on the things of life?
• To grow in wisdom, age and grace, how does this take place in my life?
5) Concluding prayer
Sing to Yahweh, bless his name!
Proclaim his salvation day after day,
declare his glory among the nations,
his marvels to every people! (Sal 96,2-3)