Candlemas is a day of cleansing in honor of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple and the purification of Mary according to Jewish law. It also marks the final moment in the Christmas Season and our transition to Lent.
As the Catholic Church moves from one season to the other, the Gospel readings during this time are a blend of those that describe the start of Christ's ministry and those that celebrate the earliest moments of his life. Taken together, they represent how he was made known to the world, and they serve to remind us how we come to know him in our own lives. At the same time, the Church includes readings from St. Paul's Letter to the Corinthians on the nature of discipleship and how we serve God as one people.
In last week's reading, Paul explains that we are unified in Christ (1 Corinthians, 12:12-13): “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.”
Paul continues by discussing the different roles individuals have within the greater Church (1 Corinthians 12:27-28): “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues.”
Just as Jesus corrected Martha for demeaning Mary's path, Paul makes it clear that we respect how others are called and the unique gifts they bring. Our goal is to spread the Word of Christ, not to compete against one another. We are all children of God, and we are all loved by Him.
Paul's letter also recalls the lesson on redemption in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Although the son who never left remained by his father, his unwillingness to celebrate his brother's return demonstrates a lack of faithfulness to his father. He could only see loyalty as a way to prove that he was better than others instead of the bigger picture.
After all, what matters most, as Paul explains this week, is love: (1 Corinthians 13:1-2): “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.”
To be true disciples, we must share Christ's love and encourage one another. Faith is not a competition, and we should not look down on others because they are different. Instead, we should remember that the Catholic Church is so named because it includes all people regardless of talent or background. Lent is coming soon, and we must ensure that we are working for the right reason.