Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – 2 February 2014 – Super Sunday Traffic
Today while lighting and blessing candles we remembered Jesus of Nazareth as a burning light revealing the presence of God; as a refiner’s fire restoring beauty to God’s creation (Malachi). In the gospel, (the final infancy narrative attributed to Luke), we heard how Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple to present him to God. Anna, a wise widow, was there and spoke in a loud voice that echoed throughout the Temple precincts, “This child is the one we have been waiting for.”
Simeon was the other sage present there. He tells Mary and Joseph that Jesus would bring salvation not only to the Israelites but to all peoples. That’s new information. He also gave a quiet but dire warning to Mary that would break her heart. Jesus would also be a sign of contradiction and that the inmost thoughts of many people would be revealed. Scripture scholars say when Luke uses the words “inmost thoughts” he is referring to evil intentions. 
We know that this gospel was written fifty years after the death of Jesus. The author already knows what happened to Jesus and inserts the warning into this story as if it were a prophecy. How do we deal with this alarming prediction by Simeon in our lives and on Super Bowl Sunday, a festive day for many?
Statistics, predictions and post-game commentaries are plentiful before during and after big sporting events. More Americans will watch the Super Bowl today than the Olympics in Sochi. Racketeers revel in knowing that countless people will gamble in some way. Marketeers marvel over the impact 30-second advertisements, each costing four million dollars, will have on viewers.
Other statistics, however, bear out the bad news that Simeon had for Mary in today’s gospel — that Jesus’s message of justice and peace would butt heads with inner most thoughts and actions that are evil and hurtful. One disturbing global reality that has received an extraordinary amount of attention in recent days leading up to the Super Bowl is human trafficking.
On one hand there is the claim that sex trafficking increases during huge sporting events; that these competitions provide a huge lucrative market for human traffickers.  The people working in the sex industry themselves say this past week, leading up to the Super Bowl, was very profitable. 
On the other hand “no data actually support the notion that increased sex trafficking accompanies the Super Bowl, World Cup Soccer games or the Olympics.”  Nevertheless, a lot of resources have been spent by law enforcement agencies, Amtrak, airlines, hotels, truckers and nuns to alert the public to the issue. The flyer in today’s Parish Bulletin was issued by the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
Super Bowl or not “Human trafficking in the sex trade and labor industries is big business. It denies freedom to millions of women, children, and men in the U.S. and around the world.  The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 21 million victims of human trafficking worldwide and 80% of the victims are women.
Hundreds of thousands are forced to provide commercial sex, labor, or services against their will right here in the United States.”  The crime exists in all communities — our Albany New York Capital District is not immune.
The 32 billion dollar a year illegal industry, second only to drug trafficking, victimizes up to 500,000 American children every year in some form of sex-trafficking. The Department of Justice reports the average age for entering into child prostitution is thirteen. 
So why raise this appalling issue on Super Bowl Sunday especially when there are no reliable data that directly connect the popular event to sex trafficking? Human trafficking, a form of slavery, is a problem all year long, everywhere. Because it has received so much attention these days (January was Human Trafficking Awareness month) it is a good time for us to grow in our realization that this despicable crime is committed all around us.
In the second reading we heard that the purpose of the death of Jesus of Nazareth was to free those who had been subject to slavery all their lives. We can play a role in stopping human trafficking by understanding the facts and contacting the national human trafficking hotline if we suspect someone is being victimized.
We blessed candles at the beginning of this liturgy to remind ourselves that the light of Christ — which we bear as baptized members of this church — can expose the evils that are rampant in the world … among them is human trafficking.
1 Byrne, Brendan. The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke’s Gospel (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2000) 34-36, Brown, Raymond. An Adult Christ At Christmas (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1978) 32
2 Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center. http://ipjc.org/links/HumanTraffickingisNotaSport.pdf
3 Pilon, Mary. “Jump in Prostitution Arrests During Super Bowl Week” in New York Times, January 30, 2014, B16.
4 Kate Mogulescu “The Super Bowl and Sex Trafficking” in The New York Times, Opinion Pages, February 1, 2014
5 Susan Grimes and Bradley Miles. “Sex Trafficking at the Super Bowl? It’s An Everyday Problem.” in Huffington Post, January 31, 2014
7 The U.S. Department of Homeland Security quoted in “Super Bowl Is Largest Weekend in US Prostitution, Advocates Say.” ABCnews.go.com January 29, 2014