The Mass for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also called Candlemas, began with the blessing of the candles and a procession in a darkened St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Altar of the Chair was illuminated with dozens of lit candles, and the consecrated men and women present in the congregation also held small candles.
For the feast of Candlemas, Catholics often bring candles to the church to be blessed. They can then light these candles at home during prayer or difficult times as a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.
In his homily, Pope Francis said that patience is not “a sign of weakness, but the strength of spirit that enables us to ‘carry the burden’ … of personal and community problems, to accept others as different from ourselves, to persevere in goodness when all seems lost, and to keep advancing even when overcome by tedium and sloth.”
“Let us take a closer look at Simeon’s patience. For his entire life, he had been waiting, exercising the patience of the heart,” he said.
“In his prayer, Simeon had learned that God does not come in extraordinary events, but works amid the apparent monotony of our daily life, in the frequently dull rhythm of our activities, in the little things that, working with tenacity and humility, we achieve in our efforts to do his will. By patiently persevering, Simeon did not grow weary with the passage of time. He was now an old man, yet the flame still burned brightly in his heart.”
The pope said that there are “real challenges” in consecrated life that require “patience and courage in order to keep advancing … and responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.”
“There was a time when we responded to the Lord’s call, and with enthusiasm and generosity offered our lives to him. Along the way, together with consolations, we have had our share of disappointments and frustrations,” he said.
“In our lives as consecrated men and women, it can happen that hope slowly fades as a result of unmet expectations. We have to be patient with ourselves and await in hope God’s own times and places, for he remains ever faithful to his promises.”
The pope noted that community life also requires “reciprocal patience” in the face of the weakness and failings in one’s brothers and sisters.
He said: “Let us keep in mind that the Lord does not call us to be soloists ... but to be part of a choir that can sometimes miss a note or two, but must always try to sing in unison.”
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Pope Francis said that Simeon’s patience was born of prayer and the history of the Jewish people, who had always seen the Lord as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and fidelity.”
He added that Simeon’s patience mirrored God’s own patience.
“More than anyone else, the Messiah, Jesus, whom Simeon held in his arms, shows us the patience of God, the merciful Father who keeps calling us, even to our final hour,” he said.
“God, who does not demand perfection but heartfelt enthusiasm, who opens up new possibilities when all seems lost, who wants to open a breach in our hardened hearts, who lets the good seed grow without uprooting the weeds.”
“This is the reason for our hope: that God never tires of waiting for us ... When we turn away, he comes looking for us; when we fall, he lifts us to our feet; when we return to him after losing our way, he waits for us with open arms. His love is not weighed in the balance of our human calculations, but unstintingly gives us the courage to start anew,” Pope Francis said.