Sermon for February 2, 2020
Presentation of the Lord
February 2, 2020
At the end of the fourth century, a woman named Egeria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her journal gives an unprecedented glimpse of liturgical life there. Among the celebrations she describes is the observance of Christ’s birth, and the procession in honor of his presentation in the temple. The observance of presentation of the Lord in the temple spread throughout the western church in the fifth and sixth centuries.
Today’s gospel presents the head of the Holy Family, Joseph, presenting Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple. The family did this to faithfully obey God’s law given through Moses. The purification of the mother and the presentation and then redeeming the child or “buying back” of the first-born were the prescriptions of the Law of Moses. This event we traditionally celebrate on February 2nd.
Purification and redemption ceremonies: According to Leviticus 12: 2-8, a woman who bore a child was unclean. The period of legal impurity ended, in the case of a mother of a male child, after forty days, with a rite of purification. Mary most holy, ever-virgin, was exempt from these precepts of the Law, because she conceived without union of man and woman, but with the Holy Spirit. However, she chose to submit herself to the Law, although she was under no obligation to do so.
In Exodus 13: 2, 12-13 it is indicated that every first-born male belongs to God and must be set apart for the Lord, that is, dedicated to the service of God. The parents had to “buy back” the child (“redeem” him), by offering lambs or turtledoves as a sacrifice in the Temple. For example, a lamb, if the family could afford or, if they were poor, a pair of doves or two pigeons. Our Lord, who "though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9), chose to have a poor man's offering made on his behalf. In addition, according to Numbers 18:15, every mother had to be purified after childbirth by prayers and an offering made to God in the Temple. Joseph kept these laws as an act of obedience to God.
When the infant Jesus was brought into the temple in Jerusalem by his parents to be presented to the Lord, he was just a face in the crowd. Thousands of people thronged in the temple grounds every day, and children were regularly presented there.
Nobody knew the child Jesus, and nobody had the least suspicion of the good that he would do; nobody except the old man Simeon and the prophetess Anna. They were on the lookout for such a child. They looked for the comforting of Israel and for the salvation of the gentiles. When a young couple came cradling a child, their hearts leapt for joy and they held the child realizing that it was the light of the world.
Although we were officially presented to God on the day of our Baptism, we present ourselves and our dear ones on the altar before God our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. Hence, we need to live our daily lives with the awareness that we are both dedicated people consecrated to God and obliged to lead holy lives.
As the parents of Jesus fulfilled all the Jewish laws, parents today have great responsibility in having their children receive all the sacraments with due preparation. Further, if the parents are not fulfilling their own religious obligations, yet they ask their children to do so, their children receive contradictory messages.
All those who, like Simeon and Anna, persevere in piety and in the service of God, no matter how insignificant their lives seem in men's eyes, become instruments whom the Holy Spirit uses to make Christ known to others. In his plan of redemption, God uses these simple souls to do much good for all mankind.
On this world day for consecrated life, let each one of us think how/what I can consecrate myself to the Lord and we shall offer ourselves to the Lord along with bread and wine to be consecrated.
Lord Jesus, as an infant you were brought to the temple by your parents out of religious duty. Help all parents to take their duties to God seriously, to inculcate their faith in the next generation by their words and by their actions, so that the faith will be handed on where the faith is first learned—in the family and in the home.