"Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised." (Luke 2:29)
In today's Gospel we are presented with a contrast between the youth of the Christ-child, just 40 days old, and the seniority of those who greet him in the Temple - Simeon and Anna.
It is no coincidence that Pope Francis has chosen to make his prayer intention for this month for those advanced in years - "that the Church and society may respect the wisdom and experience of older people.”
Age is of course a relative matter ...
But wisdom and experience are not words our society most naturally associates with the elderly. We are far more likely to describe those over a certain age as "grumpy" and "cantankerous".
We live in a society which adores a cult of youth, of novelty, of glamour and celebrity. Certainly there is beauty in old age, but people don't expect to find it there. Beauty is with the young - at least that is what people think.
So what is the difference between an experienced and wise old person and a grumpy and cantankerous one? Well, perhaps it is little more than that the words of wisdom and experience are listenned to, given attention, whereas the words of the grumpy and cantankerous are ignored.
But there is another thing. What is it that makes Simeon and Anna wise and experienced? Is it just the accumulation of their years? No - there is something else.
These two old people, though they had seen much and can remember much do not look back to the past as a golden age, and complain about the present. They don't say - "it wasn't like this in my day" and "I don't know what the world is coming to". Their words, their joy, their worship because they can see that something they had always believed, something they had always hoped for, something at the core of their faith was about to come to fullness. As they prepare to leave this world they do not regret the loss of the past, but rejoice in the promise of the future.
They are full of hope. Their lives are complete, because they have the vision to see that what they have lived for is not passing away, but is present amongst them - and their last words prepare the way his first words.