December 27, 2020; Luke 2:22-40; Feast of the Holy Family
It’s become commonplace nowadays for people to put together a bucket list. This is a list of things that they wish to experience or accomplish before they die. Even people in their thirties and forties are putting together bucket lists. Each person is able to choose what will be on his or her list. One person might desire to travel to Europe. Another to learn how to play the piano. Someone else might decide that they want to read all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays. Whatever is on your list, the intent is to check off each item one by one as you are able to fulfill it.
In today’s gospel, Simeon has a bucket list, and there’s only one thing on it. He wants to see the Messiah of God before he dies. When Joseph and Mary bring the child Jesus to the temple, his wish is fulfilled. Simeon’s bucket list is instructive to us, because it includes two characteristics that are important. Simeon wishes big, and Simeon wishes selflessly.
Simeon is not afraid to think big. What he wants is nothing less than to see the Messiah of God with his own eyes. This is the desire that generation after generation wished for without success. People who were much more important than Simeon died without seeing God’s anointed. Moses, King David, and Isaiah all went to their graves without a glimpse. But Simeon was not afraid of size. He knew what he wanted, and he dared to ask God for it. The second characteristic of Simeon’s approach is selflessness. Simeon’s desire is not primarily for himself, but for the entire world. He knows that he will not live long enough to see Jesus teach, heal, and win our salvation. But he takes his joy in knowing that others will benefit from Jesus’s ministry and sacrifice.
So, when we look around our lives for what we want, it is important to remember Simeon and to wish for things that are big and selfless. Perhaps you might wish that someone in your family, a grandchild or sibling, might decide to commit themselves to a life of service. The service might be to the church or some international agency addressing world hunger or poverty. That’s not a choice that many young people make. But Simeon would say to us “Don’t be afraid to think big. Ask what you want from God. Then place your wish in God’s hands.” Perhaps we might wish for a country that was healed, a country in which Americans would once again trust one another, where Democrats and Republicans would work together for the common good. Simeon would say, “Well, that’s thinking big alright. But go for it. A lot of things would have to change before that could happen. But you might be able to see at least the first steps towards healing.” Maybe we would like to see a world-wide commitment to our environment, an international agreement to protect our air, our water, and our earth. Simeon would say, “That’s a work for many generations, but choose it. You might be able to see a beginning.”
As we put our bucket lists together, it is important to remember Simeon. We should wish big and selflessly and then place our list in God’s hands. If we’re lucky, we, like Simeon, might see the fulfillment of our desires. But even if we don’t, even if we die before God can give that gift to us, at least we will know that we wished for something significant that will benefit the entire world.