In Luke’s story of the infant Jesus’ presentation in the temple, Mary and Joseph encounter Anna, an elderly widow who has dedicated her life to fasting and prayer in the temple.
Luke describes her as “prophetess.” Anna — whose name means “grace” — is a figure of hope: despite the hardship of her own life as a widow, she’s able to see the goodness of God around her and finds purpose in being a woman of “grace” to everyone she meets in the temple. Like Simeon, Anna realizes who this Child is and what his life will mean to the poor and lost and marginalized, and she doesn’t hesitate to tell others that, in this infant, the Kingdom of God has come.
Anna lives right here in our own parish and community. She is the elderly neighbour who struggles to come to church every day or prays every morning in her room. She keeps a list of all the people she prays for: the granddaughter who just gave birth to her first great-grandchild, the son and daughter-in-law who are going through a difficult time in their relationship, the grandson off to his first year of college, the neighbour about to undergo surgery. She has a kind word for everyone she meets. She radiates kindness and graciousness.
Most families have an “Anna”: the grandmother (or grandfather, for that matter) or great aunt (or uncle) who has become a model of kindness and a source of wisdom for the family and who, with compassion and care, provides a listening heart and loving counsel to all who come to her.
We are all called to be “prophets” like Anna: to move beyond our own hardships and sadness to realize the love of God in our midst and “tell” of that love in our own simple and unremarkable acts of kindness and understanding and comfort to those we encounter in the “temples” in which we live and work and play and pray. May we embrace the spirit of hope and thanksgiving of Anna in today’s Gospel: always finding reason to hope in the light despite the darkness that overwhelms us, always giving thanks for the love of God ever present in our midst.