“A sight for sore eyes!’
Since the 1700’s the phrase has been used to mean you’re very happy to see someone, so much so that your eyes feel better just for seeing them.
I had never thought of the phrase in the context of the biblical account of Jesus’ presentation in the temple some 2000 years ago. Yet Simeon and Anna’s joy is what Pope Francis highlighted in his 2017 reflection on the feast of the Presentation and a day celebrating consecrated life.
As I read the words from his heart, I realized the double meaning of his thoughts. They speak to the hearts of all believers today. They also speak in a special way to those living what is called “consecrated life.” We can each enter into the joy of Simeon and Anna who in their old age saw that their lives were worth living because the Lord keeps his promise.
“Jesus himself will later explain this promise in the synagogue of Nazareth: the sick, prisoners, those who are alone, the poor, the elderly and sinners, all are invited to take up this same hymn of hope. Jesus is with them, Jesus is with us (cf. Lk 4:18-19).” Pope Francis
Fast forward to today.
Pope Francis writes
We have inherited this hymn of hope from our elders. They made us part of this process. In their faces, in their lives, in their daily sacrifice, we were able to see how this praise was embodied. We are heirs to the dreams of our elders, heirs to the hope that did not disappoint our founding mothers and fathers, our older brothers and sisters.
We are heirs to those who have gone before us and had the courage to dream. Like them, we too want to sing, “God does not deceive; hope in him does not disappoint.”
We do well to take up the dreams of our elders, so that we can prophesy in our day and once more encounter what originally set our hearts afire. …how our elders, our fathers and mothers, dreamed, and the courage prophetically to carry on those dreams.
Temptation of survival
He continues by describing …
… the temptation of survival. An evil that can gradually take root within us and within our communities.
The mentality of survival makes us reactionaries, fearful, slowly and silently shutting ourselves up in our houses and in our own preconceived notions.
It makes us look back, to the glory days – days that are past – and rather than rekindling the prophetic creativity born of our founders’ dreams, it looks for shortcuts in order to evade the challenges knocking on our doors today.
A survival mentality robs our charisms of power, because it leads us to “domesticate” them, to make them “user-friendly”, robbing them of their original creative force.
It makes us want to protect spaces, buildings and structures, rather than to encourage new initiatives.
The temptation of survival makes us forget grace. It turns us into professionals of the sacred but not fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of that hope to which we are called to bear prophetic witness.
An environment of survival withers the hearts of our elderly, taking away their ability to dream. In this way, it cripples the prophecy that our young are called to proclaim and work to achieve.
In a word, the temptation of survival turns what the Lord presents as an opportunity for mission into something dangerous, threatening, potentially disastrous.
This attitude is not limited to the consecrated life, but each of us is urged not to fall into it.
Questions for all us
- How conscious are we of Jesus’ dream?
- Do we the courage prophetically to carry on the dreams of our elders?
- Do we let our concerns for survival cripple the prophecy in a throw-away culture?