In today’s gospel, Luke chronicles the day on which Jesus was taken to the temple by his parents “to present him to the Lord” as was prescribed by the religious law. For each of the characters the story holds great importance. As young parents, Joseph and Mary must have felt pride in addition to their love of their child, Jesus – especially when Simeon and Anna – two long-lived “residents” of the temple – recognized Jesus as “the long-awaited one.” For Mary, the elation must have been short-lived, however, when Anna spoke of the sword of sorrow that would pierce Mary’s motherly heart because of who Jesus was to become. I often see this as a great narrative to be expanded and staged, but today I was immediately focused on Anna.
The Scriptures describe Anna as having lived seven years with her husband and then as a widow to the age of 84. I am statistically one of the “younger” Sisters in my religious community and have the privilege of sharing life with many women in their 80s and 90s. (Next month Sister Frances, very special to our local community, will celebrate her 100th birthday!). I often comment on the fact that I have had six significant people in my life who are all the same age and are 15 years older than I am. At this moment, I realize today, the four that remain on earth are 84 years old. All six have been dedicated to God in one way or another: 3 religious Sisters, 2 married women and one who has lived “the single life.” While quite diverse, they have all taught me lessons of perseverance and generosity of life for which I will always be grateful.
Let us all praise those steadfast women in our lives and give thanks to God for their good example!