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Homily: Presentation of Our Lord

On February 2, 1887, Groundhog Day, featuring a rodent meteorologist, was celebrated for the first time at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The custom came from Germany and the celebration of Candlemas.

Candlemas is the liturgical celebration that occurs 40 days after “The Light to the Gentiles” came to us.  In the “old country,” the clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented the light of Christ in the midst of the darkness of our soul and the  long and cold the winter of our daily existence.

All over Europe Candlemas was considered one of the great days of weather forecasting. Popular belief claimed that bad weather and cloudy skies on February 2 meant that winter had already spent itself out. This bode for an early and prosperous summer. If the sun shined through the greater part of Candlemas Day, however, there was plenty of winter still stored up in the heavens. Thus, there would be forty more days of snow.

An ancient Scottish poem reflects this tradition:

If Candlemas Day be dry and fair,

“Then the half o’ winter will come to mair,

“But if Candlemas Day be wet and foul,

“Then the half o’ winter is gone at Yule.

“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,

“Then winter will have another flight,

“But if it be dark with clouds and rain,

“Then winter is gone and will not come again.”

Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an John Griffiths Al Dereumeanimal, specifically the hedgehog, as a means of predicting weather. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the Keystone State.

 

Many early American settlers came to this land for religious reasons. They saw the-joy-of-the-gospel_350_3themselves as missionaries and instruments in God’s hands.  Today, Pope Francis feels that this missionary spirit is critically needed. In The Joy of the Gospel (#27) the Holy Father writes,

I dream of a missionary option, in other words, an impulse capable of transforming everything so that the church its customs, the ways of doing things, times and schedules, languages and structures would be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self preservation.

 

Let’s look at the Pope’s words from a different perspective:

I dream of a missionary option, in other words, an impulse capable of transforming everything so that:

  • My parish and its customs,
  • The way it does things,
  • Its times, schedules and buildings,
  • The sports, programs, activities and structures….
  • …would be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than merely for my parishes self preservation.

 

How about a third perspective. Imagine the Pope having dinner at your house and saying:

I dream of a missionary option, where you would have an experience, that would cause in you an impulse capable of transforming everything so that:

  • Your family and your family’s traditions,
  • The way you do things,
  • Your time and schedule,
  • Your hobbies, your job, your chores, your daily activities …
  • …would be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than merely for your self preservation.

Evangelization  is not easy to Catholics. It involves language and practices that we are not used to. So how do we do what Pope Francis suggests above? When you encounter someone, shed light and warmth. Try these three steps:

  1. Acknowledge their needs and values
  2. Articulate your guiding beliefs and values
  3. Stay in the canoe.

What does that look like specifically? Try the following language:

  1. Acknowledge their needs and values
    1. I recognize you want to …
    2. I know you are concerned by …
    3. I acknowledge that this is important to you
  2. Articulate your guiding beliefs and values
    1. For me, this is important
    2. For me, I need to …
  3. Stay in the canoe (And offer to continue the relationship)
    1. Let’s find a way for us to ..
    2. I’d like to find out more about how we …..
    3. I’d like to identify how we can ….

 

Why do we use candles? Candles give off two things:

  1. Light – the symbol of wisdom.
  2. Warmth – the symbol of love.

But notice, it only give those … as it sacrifices itself. That is why candles are a symbol of Pope_Francis_Easter_Vigil_2018_March_31_Credit_Daniel_Ibanez_CNA_CNAJesus Christ. It is why the “Paschal Candle,” lit during the evening twilight of the Easter Vigil, giving off light in the midst of a darkened church, is the ultimate “Jesus-Candle.” Pope Francis is not asking us (necessarily) to go on street corners and bang our Bibles and shout Scripture at people. He is asking us to simply engage the same people we always encounter. Talk to people the same way, and about the same topics, that you typically talk to them about.

If the Holy Spirit opens up a little window to talk about your faith, the church, Jesus, the Pope….

  1. A quick, silent prayer
  2. A little insight
  3. A little warmth

See where the Lord takes it from there. The Lord is a pretty “bright” guy.

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