24 August 2016

Anne Has Departed from this Life in the Peace of Christ, Her Savior

What is it that you’re looking for in life?  What are you trying to find?

Whatever you might call it, however you might describe it, and however your heart might feel it, what you’re looking for and longing for is peace.  Not simply a truce or cease-fire.  Not merely the absence of arguments and conflict.  But real peace.  Genuine contentment and true satisfaction.  Confidence in who you are and why you’re here.  And not only reconciliation, but actual friendship with God and with your neighbors.  A peace that flows with identity, meaning, and purpose.

In her latter years, especially, Anne was challenged, tried, and tested precisely in that regard.  She spent twenty years without her husband.  Her children were grown, and two of them, Ronald and Richard, preceded her in death.  She could no longer stay in her own home.  Her thoughts were getting fuzzy, her memory slipping.  And she had so many chronic aches and pains, all coupled with a growing weariness of heart, mind, and body.

She was tired and bored, and she often wondered why she was still here.  And yet, Anne’s faith, hope, and love remained in Christ, as He remained faithful to her.  And her peace, even to the last, was located not in her abilities, activities, or achievements, but precisely in her Lord, upon whom she waited in patience and in prayer.

Like Anne, you’re also looking for such a peace that surpasses all human comprehension and achievement.  And, like her, you are called to find it in the same place that Simeon and Anna did: In the Temple of the Lord.  Which is to speak, no longer of any one building over in Palestine, but of the Body of Christ Jesus, the Babe, the Son of Mary, who grew up to be crucified under Pontius Pilate, who died and was buried, who has risen and ascended to the right hand of the Father.  Your true and lasting Peace is found in the Sign of His Cross and in the promise of His Resurrection, in accordance with the Word and Spirit of God.

But how shall you perceive and recognize what Simeon and Anna saw in the Christ Child, that is, the Light of revelation to the Gentiles and the Glory of His people Israel?

And how shall the Light of Christ reveal the meaning and purpose of your life, not haphazard and capricious, but graciously given by God?  To say it simply, how shall you live and die in peace, in the way that Anne was granted to live and die by faith in Christ Jesus?

If you “live like you were dying,” as they say, that might seem helpful in some respects; or maybe not so much.   But that approach is not the source of peace, especially when life lingers long past the point when you can run with the bulls, parachute out of an airplane, or even maintain your normal routines in caring for yourself.  However long or short your days and years on earth may be, your life is not in your own hands to do with as you like.

But simply resigning yourself to the fact that someday you’re going to die — sooner or later, this way or that — such an attitude is also not the peace of Christ but the cold logic of Satan.

Consider, instead, the righteousness of faith in the Gospel, which reasons in this way: “Yes, it is true that I shall die from this temporal life on earth; and I have already died with Christ in my Baptism.  But so is it also true that my life is hidden with Him in His Resurrection and Ascension, in the bosom of my God and Father in heaven.  Therefore, even though I die, yet shall I live.”

Who dies thus, dies well.  And so has Anne now departed from her life on earth in the Word and faith of Christ; and by the power of her Holy Baptism she lives and abides forever with Christ in God, even while her body yet awaits the Resurrection of all flesh.

In the meantime, for you who remain in this mortal body and life — although you also are in the process of dying — there is a meaning and a purpose for the time and place that you are given here, for your callings and stations in life.  As it was for Anne throughout her almost 99 years, so also for you, even when that meaning and purpose are hidden and mysterious.  You live in faith and love, in patience, prayer, and praise, and already there is peace for you in the Lord Jesus Christ.

For whether you live or die, you are the Lord’s.

That is the key, first of all, to this Holy Gospel, to the Presentation of our Lord Jesus in the Temple, and to the Peace of Christ that you share with Anne, with Simeon, Anna, Mary & Joseph.

You are the Lord’s  because He has redeemed you, purchased and won you.  As He once redeemed the firstborn sons of Israel from death, and redeemed His people Israel from Egypt, so has He even more gloriously redeemed you and all people from sin, death, the devil, and hell, by the Sacrifice of His holy Body and the shedding of His precious Blood upon the Cross.

That is why Jewish parents brought their firstborn sons to the Lord’s house: The Levites did so to dedicate their sons to service in the priesthood; and the rest of the Israelites came to redeem their sons from sacrifice, to sanctify them for their life in this world to the glory of God.  Because, in truth, both they and all their children are the Lord’s by right, who is their Creator and Redeemer.

So are you also His, along with your parents and children, your brothers and sisters, and all your family, friends, and loved ones.  You belong by right to your Creator and Redeemer, from whom your life and all things come by His grace alone.

So does He call you daily to repentance and to faith in His Word.  To be baptized, if you are not, and to remember the significance of your Holy Baptism all the days of your life.  He calls you to live, in whatever place He has put you, whatever your situation and circumstance, no longer for yourself, but for Him who for your sake died and was raised.  To live in faith toward God, and in fervent love for Him and for your neighbor, all for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Savior.

It is by His own Cross and Resurrection that He works repentance in your heart and life, and by which He sanctifies your body and soul to the glory of His holy Name.

And it is by His Cross and Crucifixion that He reveals the secret thoughts of your heart, as Simeon prophesied to St. Mary.  For His Cross opposes whatever selfishness and self-righteousness there is in you, whatever striving for yourself.  His Cross brings about the dying of your self.  That, too, belongs to the purpose of your life on earth, that God the Father should thus conform you to the Image of His Son.  Just as He also, in mercy, called Anne to Himself, named her with His Name, anointed her with His Spirit, and justified her in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.

Because the Cross that Anne was given to bear and carry — and which you are likewise called to bear and carry — is first of all the Cross of Christ Himself, so also is the righteousness of His Resurrection credited to Anne, and to all those who believe and are baptized into Him.  Therefore, not death but life shall have you; not slavery but freedom; not fear and sadness, but peace and joy.

Christ has given Himself for you and for Anne and for all.  Not only for the dying of repentance, but also for the rising of faith.  Not only are you put to death to your self, but you are also raised up to a new life in Christ within His one Body of many members.  You live as He lives, and you shall never die.  You live as He lives, and your life is bound up together with all who live in Him.

Therefore, the peace that you are looking for and longing for in the depths of your being is not only your own comfort and salvation, but the redemption of Jerusalem and the consolation of Israel.

The peace that you are looking for is found in Christ Jesus, because He has reconciled God and man in Himself, in His own Person, in His own flesh and blood, in His Cross and Resurrection.  You find the peace that you are looking for in Him, and you also find your neighbors and friends in Him; your brothers and sisters; your fathers and mothers; your sons and daughters; your babies and old people.  In loving Him, you love each and all of them.  And in loving them, you love Him.

So it is that your love for Anne over the years, and her love for you, have been a confession and an exercise of the Love of God in Christ Jesus.  Hence, there is real meaning and purpose in your life on earth, in your loving care for your neighbors, and in being loved by your fellow Christians.

It is both a humble and exalted thing, that to love and to be loved as a Christian is to live by faith in the Image of the Son of God.  It is humbling to care for those who are nearing the end of their mortal life, and even more humbling to be cared for after a lifetime of caring for yourself.  But in Christ Jesus, by faith in Christ, you are raised up and exalted by the grace of God, by the glory of His Gospel, by His merciful care for you and for all of His dear children.

It is to such a life that you are called to live by the Word of the Lord, and so are you guided by His Holy Spirit to live and love in peace.  That is what brought Mary and Joseph and Simeon and Anna to the Temple, to the little Lord Jesus.  And the same Word and Spirit of the same Lord brought Anne also to the Temple of God in the Body of Christ Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead.

Thus, like her namesake, Anne was also in the Temple as often as she could be, serving by night as by day with her fasting and prayers.  And when she was no longer able to be in the Lord’s House due to her age and infirmity, the Temple of the Lord came to her, where she was, in the preaching of the Gospel and in the Sacrament of His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for her.

In much the same way that dear St. Mary and St. Joseph brought the Christ Child to the Temple in Jerusalem, so that blessed St. Simeon and St. Anna were able to receive Him and rejoice in His salvation, so did Anne receive her Lord Jesus and rejoice in His mercy and compassion, in His free and full forgiveness of all her sins.

That same Gospel of forgiveness in the Body of the same Lord Jesus Christ is likewise given and poured out for you in His House, in the Temple of His Church on earth, wherever His Word is preached and His Sacraments are administered in His Name.

It is all the blessed good work of the little One who opened the womb of His Mother Mary, who was brought up to Jerusalem and presented to the Lord: not only in the Temple once upon a time, but once-for-all upon the Cross, in order to become in His own Body the Temple of God forever.

This little One, the Babe, the Son of Mary, He is your Peace.  For in flesh and blood like yours, He has been righteous and devout, and He has performed everything in fulfillment of the Law.

By His Cross He has redeemed you, and in His Resurrection His Body has been established as the true Temple of God in heaven and on earth.  As your merciful and great High Priest, He ever lives to pray and intercede for you before His God and Father, while He also comes and enters in to be with you here in His Church on earth.

As He cared for Anne throughout her long life, redeemed her for Himself, preserved her in the one true faith, and granted her to depart in peace, so does He care for you in love and call you to die and rise with Him, to live by faith in His Word and promises, and to abide now and forever in His Peace, which far and away surpasses all our human understanding.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

No comments: