Simeon is a beloved character. We almost always imagine him as an old temple priest, but nothing of the sort appears in the text. Simeon is a good man of the people, who holds in his heart the hope of seeing someday «the consolation» that is so needed. «Prompted by the Spirit of God» he goes up to the temple at the moment that Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus are coming in.
The meeting is emotion-packed. In the child that this poor pious Jewish couple is carrying, Simeon recognizes the Savior that he’s been waiting for these many years. The man is overcome by joy. In a daring and maternal gesture, «he takes the child into his arms» with love and great tenderness. He blesses God and blesses the parents. Without doubt, the Evangelist presents him as an example. That’s how we should welcome the Savior.
But suddenly he directs himself to Mary and his countenance changes. His words presage nothing comforting: «a sword will pierce your soul». This child that he has in his arms will be a «sign that is opposed»: source of conflicts and confrontations. Jesus will make «some fall and others rise». Some will welcome him and their lives will receive a new dignity: their existence will be filled with light and hope. Others will reject him and their lives will rot: the rejection of Jesus will be their ruin.
Based upon the posture that we take before Jesus, «the secret thoughts of many will be laid bare». He will bring to the light what is deepest in our hearts. The welcoming of this child demands a profound change. Jesus doesn’t come to bring peace, but to generate a painful and conflictive process of radical conversion.
It’s always that way. Even today. A Church that takes seriously her conversion to Jesus Christ will never be a place of tranquility but of conflict. It’s not possible to have a more living relationship with Jesus and not take steps higher into truth. And this is always painful for anyone.
The closer we come to Jesus, the better we will see our failings and our detours, what’s of truth and what’s of lies in our Christianity, what is sinful in our hearts and our structures, in our lives and our theologies.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf