Here is Fr Neil’s Candlemas Homily:
The gospel tells of an ordinary, every day event in the life of the People of God and in the ministry of the Temple. The law required the presenting of a first-born male, who belongs to the Lord. The child was to be redeemed at the cost of 5 shekels. At the same time the mother would make offering for her purification after childbirth.
What makes this, otherwise everyday story extraordinary are the characters involved. What we see is great humility. Out of obedience to the Law of Moses, the Redeemer is redeemed and she who is pure offers the sacrifice for purification. Mary and Joseph’s bringing of Jesus to the Temple develops the motif of Christ’s identification with the Temple. This relationship begins with Zachariah’s vision, while ministering there, promising him a son who will prepare the way for the Saviour.
The temple- the sign of God among his people and the place of encounter between God and humanity is fulfilled in Jesus, who is Emmanuel- God-with-us. “Tear down this temple and, in three days, I will rebuild it.”
Our reading from Hebrews tells us that Jesus shares the same flesh and blood so that by his death he could take away all the power of Satan. In Jesus is, not only the temple but also the sacrifice. This is attested to by John the Baptist when he cried “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the World.”
Both the Malachi and Hebrews readings also indicate that Jesus- the one promised- will purify and restore the true, priestly function to make right offering to the Lord. In fact Jesus is the priesthood. There is no other than Jesus’. His is the Compassionate High Priest.
The whole temple cult is fulfilled in Jesus. He is the true temple, the true sacrifice and the true High Priest, that brings salvation to the nations, a light to the Gentiles and glory to God’s People. It is through a life of faith, prayer and the grace of the Holy Spirit that Simeon and Anna were able to glimpse something of the mystery of our salvation in the daily ordinary events of the temple.
By Faith and grace we are able to see that the Church is not bricks and mortar but the people. The People realise that although they are the Church, the Church is not theirs to do with as they please because we are the Body of Christ and he is our Head.
By faith we realise that it’s not Fr Neil or Fr Raglan or Fr David but the priesthood of Jesus- persona Christi- Our High Priest, who offers the sacrifice of the Mass. And it is by faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit that we receive what was ordinary bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ himself. We then, in a movement of faith, hope and love will receive the grace to see Christ Jesus, the salvation of the Nations, the light to the Gentiles and the glory of the People of God in the Ordinary events of our everyday life and fulfil our vocation to reflect, echo and witness to him, who is my Lord and my God.