SIMEON WHO BLESSED GOD FOR INFANT JESUS
No one knows for sure the details of this Simeon, except Luke’s description (Lk 2:22-35). There are scholars who identify him with Shimeon, the son of Hillel and father of Gamaliel and president of the Sanhedrin.
Luke describes of Simeon:
1) Simeon lived in Jerusalem.
Simeon, being a holy and elderly man filled with the Holy Spirit, was living in Jerusalem (Lk 2:25), the Holy City of God (Ps 48:2, 9).
2) Simeon was righteous.
According to the Hebrew Bible, righteousness is a chief attribute of God. Righteousness stands for good ethical conduct. “You shall not pervert justice in measuring length, weight or quantity” (Lev 19:35). The Bible characterizes Noah, Abraham, Job, Jesus’ foster father Joseph, and others as righteous people.
3) Simeon was devout.
The meaning of devout is God-fearing, reverential, or pious. Simeon was visiting the Temple to keep up his devotion to God.
4) Simeon was awaiting the consolation of Israel.
From a political point of view, Israel was awaiting liberation from foreign rulers. They had been continuously under Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans who were pagan rulers. The Israelites remembered God delivering their ancestors through Moses from Egyptian slavery and leading them to the Promised Land. They were expectantly waiting for such a deliverer to give them freedom, peace, and prosperity.
From a socio-religious point of view, the lower-class people of Israel, like the Samaritans and Gentiles, had lost hopes for salvation because the high-class Jews taught that God’s favor was only for the elite group. Jesus came to offer consolation to the less fortunate in the community. Quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2, Jesus proclaimed: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and sight to the blind; to free the oppressed and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy” (Lk 4:18-19). For Jesus, this was a spiritual liberation from the bondage of Satan, sin, suffering, and spiritual death. The liberative actions of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit brought consolation for Israel and for all the nations.
5) The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon.
This phrase shows the Holy Spirit’s presence in a person to conduct a special purpose. Simeon’s mission was to prophesy on Jesus and give witness to Joseph, Mary, and those present in the Temple. In the New Testament, all who receive baptism receive the Holy Spirit to give witness to Christ in their lives.
Simeon had reached a ripe old age and was patiently awaiting the fulfillment of this assurance he had received through the Holy Spirit. The apocryphal book called the “Gospel of Nativity” presents him as 113 years old.
Simeon had a message from the Holy Spirit that he would be fortunate to see the coming of the Messiah in his lifetime. Jesus himself later expressed that many prophets and kings of the Old Testament wished for it. “Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said to them privately, ‘Fortunate are you to see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it’” (Lk 10:23-24).
Like Simeon, the call of Christians is to be imitators of God in righteousness. God rewarded him for his virtue in this world and in heaven. The ability to receive Jesus as Holy Eucharist and the opportunity to give witness to him in the society are gifts of God that we must use like Simeon.