The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple – Luke 2:22-40
“So that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed.”
Tears filled my eyes. I had butterflies in my stomach. And my heart was pounding. I nodded, whispered yes, and waited for what I knew would be his next question. But it never came. He never asked what my secret was. Later, I realized that he didn’t need to know my secret. But I did. I needed to let it pierce my soul, to feel it and deal with it. And he knew that.
I had been living in a dark silence and hiding from my own life. I needed to know and reveal my secret, my inner thoughts, to myself.
The secrets we keep from ourselves are often more hurtful and destructive than the secrets we keep from others. We think we keep secrets but the reality is they keep us. They keep us fearful, isolated, and marginalized. They keep us separated from ourselves and others. They keep us from healing, wholeness, and life. And I don’t think that’s how any of us want to live.
I’ll bet you also know about the dark silence of a secret. I’ll bet there are parts of your life that you’ve hidden, rejected, or would like to forget. I’ll bet you’ve worried or wondered what would happen if that secret or those parts of your life ever got loose and came to light.
We fear the light of disclosure, of being found out, of being seen in a bad light, the light of investigations and accusations. And for good reason. The tell all disclosure can hurt and sometimes destroy people. But there is another light, a softer light. It’s what Simeon calls “a light for revelation.”
The light of disclosure is what others use against us, but a light for revelation is what Jesus uses for us. It’s the light by which we walk in peace; the light by which we see healing, hope, and more life; the light that the darkness cannot overcome.
That’s what I experienced with my counselor’s question.
That’s what’s happening to Simeon in today’s gospel (Luke 2:22-40) when he takes the child Jesus in his arms and talks about going in peace, seeing salvation, and a light for revelation.
That’s what the woman at the well with Jesus is describing when she says to the people of the city, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done.”
That’s what’s going on with the prodigal son when “he came to himself,” left the pig pens of the distant country, and began his journey home.
A light for revelation shone in their lives. Their inner thoughts had been revealed, not to the world but to themselves. They named and faced the dark silence of their lives. They let their hearts be opened and their heart’s desires be known. They no longer hid secrets.
That’s how I want to live, don’t you? I think that’s what we’re asking for and why we start every liturgy by praying that God will “cleanse the thoughts of our hearts.” You remember that prayer, right?
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts….
You probably know where this is going and what my next question will be. So here it is:
Do you have a secret?
Maybe your secret is about something you’ve done or left undone. Maybe it’s about something that happened or was done to you. Maybe it’s about guilt, shame, or embarrassment. Maybe it’s something that’s just too painful to let out. Maybe it was a choice or decision you wish you had never made. Maybe it’s something in your family’s history. Maybe it’s how much you drink, your internet searches, a relationship, or your finances.
Or maybe it’s a dream, desire, or ambition that you never told a soul. You hide it, ignore it, cover it up, because it just seems too good, too beautiful, or too big to be possible.
Have you ever hidden your truest and most authentic self for fear that you wouldn’t be accepted or loved, or because it wasn’t safe to be you? What’s your heart’s deepest desire, that one you don’t talk about because it’s too good to be true?
Do you ever feel like you are living a lie? What’s the secret truth behind that lie? Or maybe you are living less than who you really are or want to be. What’s the secret life that wants to be free and alive?
What are the things you work hard to cover up and make sure no one knows? What’s that one thing that when you think of it you say, “I’d just die if they ever found out about that?”
I’m not asking you to tell me your secret. I don’t need to know your secret, but you do. You need to know it. That knowing, that facing up to ourselves, is a sacred meeting place. It is a temple as holy as the one in which old Simeon met the newborn Jesus. It’s a place where the dark silence meets a light for revelation, where our old life meets our new life, where you and I meet our salvation.
What if you went to that place of meeting today? What if you held your secret in a light for revelation? What might you see?
That light is as gentle as a newborn. It will not betray you. It will not investigate or accuse you. It will not disclose something about you. Instead, it will reveal something to you. That light reveals love, peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy, compassion, healing, wholeness, welcome and acceptance, beauty, hope, new life.
That’s what Simeon saw in the temple. That’s what the women saw at the well with Jesus. That’s what the prodigal son saw in the pig pens of the distant country. That’s what I saw that day in my counselor’s office. And there’s no reason it cannot be what you see.