Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the end of our Christmas liturgies, in which the Gospel of Luke describes how the parents of Jesus bring Him to be presented in the temple. We are told that they are following the Jewish practice according to which ‘every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord’ (Luke 2:23). This act of presentation happens at the beginning of life because at this point the child is an open book to be filled with God’s law, to be dedicated to God. The child’s life now belongs to the Lord. At first sight this would seem to be the ultimate denial of the child’s freedom, the closing off of the possibility for the child to decide for himself how he wishes to live his life. Yet the reality is that this is the ultimate act of freeing. The child’s life is not to be measured according to success or failure in achieving a set of human goals, but in faithfulness to God’s life giving promises. We are freed from the burden of self-fulfilment for God Himself becomes our fulfilment.
But what of those who are not faithful? Those who refuse the gift of God? To Simeon it had been revealed by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Christ of the Lord. Anna had spent most of her life praying in the temple. These two venerable prophets proclaim that the child being presented in the temple is God’s salvation, the Christ who will free Israel and be a light to the pagans. Here is more than optimism, for this is a real hope. Through this child God will restore us to the faithful friendship we have lost by sinning. More than that, He will offer us adoption as His sons and daughters, to share fully in His joy.
Our past can burden us; mistakes made, hurts suffered. But the past (and for that matter the future) can only truly burden us if we judge our lives by human standards. The hope offered us in Jesus Christ transforms us, so that no matter how life has been hope is not lost, a hope which rest not upon our own efforts, but upon the loving friendship revealed to us in Jesus Christ. This is what Simeon and Anna proclaim: in this child God comes to save us by making us His friends. This is not to say that the emotional hurt of the past goes away, but it is to give us an assurance at the deepest level of our being that no matter how life has turned out God presents us with a gift which goes beyond all human measure: His Only Son.
By David Goodill O.P.