By CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN
It’s bleak out there, folks!
I mean it’s dark outside, these short days at the height of winter.
It’s slowly improving, though, can you tell?
This Sunday, February 2nd, is the fifty-yard line of winter, at the midpoint of December 21 (the start of winter) and March 21 (the beginning of spring). That’s what the groundhog is all about, the shadow, the conflict between darkness and light.
I’m afraid we all have to admit that the darkness out there is not just due to the sun’s hide-and-seek teasing. The world can be a somber, dreary place: flu viruses, crime, hate attacks, bitter politics, drugs, wars, threats, injustice, helicopter crashes. We’re tempted to stay inside and cuddle up in front of a fire!
As you’ve often heard me confess, darkness at times eclipses even the Church we love, with episodes of scandal, abuse, problems.
And…’fess up… there’s darkness inside of us. Yes, we blush, there’s sin, evil, selfishness, bitterness, pettiness, deep down in our very interior.
We crave light. We are weary of the dreary!
The groundhog’s appearance Sunday brings a question mark: will there be more weeks of darkness or of progressing lumination?
For those with faith, forget the question mark: place instead an exclamation point!
Because Jesus Christ is the light of the world! The powers of darkness sure try hard to extinguish His light, but the victory is His!
So, on February 2nd, we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the temple. Loyal Jews, Mary and Joseph carry their firstborn to dedicate him to God forty days after His birth.
(In some countries, like Poland, the Christmas season extends all the way until this feast of the Presentation, with the tree and decorations still aglow. In Italy, one can eat the Christmas bread, panettone, until February 2nd. I sure do!)
In the Temple, the Jewish holy man, Simeon, held the 40-day old Holy Infant and shouts out that He is the light to the world!
That’s why we nickname this beautiful feast Candlemas Day, as we bless the candles to burn all year in church, reminding us daily that the darkness we soberly see in the world, the Church, ourselves, does not have the last world. Jesus, the light of the world, has that claim!