FEBRUARY 2, 2020 THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD FEAST (Lec. 524)
1) Malachi 3:1-4
2) Hebrews 2:14-18
3) Luke 2:22-40 or 2:22-32
Gospel related: CCC 149, 529, 575, 583, 587, 618, 695, 711, 713.
FOCUS: Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, and the light to reveal God’s glory to the world.
At first this celebration may seem rather strange and out of sequence. We have long since taken down the Christmas decorations and put away the crèches. Indeed, two Sundays of Ordinary Time have passed during which the adult Jesus has been baptized, begun his public ministry and called his first disciples. This is where knowledge of Jewish custom and history helps us understand this momentary shift out of Ordinary Time and back to a feast.
The Gospel, says, When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Mosaic Law set this time of purification as 40 days after the birth of a male child –and today is 40 days, inclusive, after Christmas.
What occurred on this holy day took place for countless other Jewish mothers and their sons. The rite of purification included a burnt offering to the Lord – for the wealthy the sacrifice of a one-year old lamb or goat; for the poor, two turtle doves or young pigeons, as Mary does here. As her firstborn son, Jesus is also consecrated to the Lord, and while this does not have to take place in a temple, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for this purpose.
The symbolism of this ought not to be lost on us. In bringing Jesus to the Temple, his parents are giving back the very gift that God has given them. This gesture of whole-hearted thanksgiving to God, therefore, becomes the pattern of salvation and the way of all Christian living. This newborn child, the Father’s gift to creation, will in turn offer his whole life back to God in another act of sacrificial self-giving at Calvary. The child who is presented in the Temple of Jerusalem will one day die in this same city, destroying this Temple and raising a new one.
Simeon and Anna, just and pious people, were also present in the Temple. Their hearts were full of expectant hope in the fulfillment of the promises God had made to Israel about her redemption. Together, they represent all who ever longed for the coming of the Messiah and for the redemption of humanity.
As Simeon says, this child is the revelation of God’s glory. Jesus fulfills the title given to him in an earlier part of Luke’s Gospel, where he is described as Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father (1:32). He is the very gift of God to us, long promised through the words of Malachi: the one who will fill the Temple with the very presence of God.
But this is not just any divine revelation, for Jesus shares with us our human condition, with all its trials and temptations, making him a true light and hope for all humanity. While Christians are no longer dedicated according to the Law of Moses, we are presented at baptism by name, and, through the grace of that sacrament,conformed to the very identity and sacrifice of Christ. The life we have been given by God is therefore bestlived by our own loving, thankful and obedient service to him. With God’s help, may we always do so.