Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40
At first glance, today’s celebration (The Presentation of the Lord; Luke 2:22-40) may seem rather strange and out of sequence. The Christmas decorations came down a few weeks ago and three Sundays of Ordinary Time have passed during which the adult Jesus has been baptized, begun his public ministry, and called his first disciples. But the Law of Moses called for a 40-day period of purification after the birth of a male child – and today is 40 days, inclusive, after Christmas.
The rite of purification that took place on this holy day in ancient times included a burnt offering to the Lord – for the wealthy parents this offering was a one-year-old lamb or goat; or for the poor, two turtle doves or young pigeons, as Mary does in today’s Gospel. As her firstborn son, Jesus is also consecrated to the Lord, and while this does not have to take place in the Temple, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for this purpose. This child (Jesus) who is offered to God in the Temple of Jerusalem, will one day die on a cross outside the walls of this same city, offering himself for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of all.
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” (Luke 1:32).
Jesus is the very gift of God to us, long promised through the words of Malachi in our First Reading (Malachi 3:1-4); 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 of 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 best lived by our own loving, thankful, and obedient service to him. With God’s help, may we always do so
By Stephen Schultz