Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
I need to point out that since this feast takes precedence over the 4th Sunday of the A cycle, we do not hear the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12a.
The beginning of Luke’s Gospel draws parallels between Jesus and John, “the announcement of their births”; followed by their birth stories. But with the Presentation in the Temple, Jesus’ story takes precedence until John appears in chapter 3 preaching and then baptizing Jesus. In chapter 7 we have John sending two disciples to ask “”Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?”
The passage from Malachi sheds some light on this question. He delivered his prophecies about 420 BCE, after the second return of Nehemiah from Persia. He comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.
Today’s passage speaks to the second aspect of a prophets labor:
But who will endure the day of his coming?
And who can stand when he appears?
For he is like the refiner’s fire,
or like the fuller’s lye.
He will sit refining and purifying silver,
and he will purify the sons of Levi,
Refining them like gold or like silver
that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.
Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem
will please the LORD,
as in the days of old, as in years gone by.
This emphasis of Prophets like Malachi is what John preached. Jesus in his response to the disciples question identifies John as precisely the person John envisioned Jesus to be: the Elijah who prepares the way for the coming of the day of the Lord. But Jesus says his role is rather to bring the blessings spoken of in Is 61:to the oppressed and neglected of society.
In the Presentation Gospel Jesus’ arrival is seen both as the fulfillment of biblical promise and as the promise of his salvific passion and future persecutions and struggles.
Structurally, it includes an introduction: which brings Jesus to Jerusalem; body: in the Jerusalem temple with the witness of Simeon and Anna; conclusion: Jesus returns to Nazareth.
The events in Jerusalem (2:25-38) are framed by the journey to and from that city and create a sense of movement.
Two laws are fulfilled, 1) the purification of the mother 2) the consecration of the first born. This fulfillment of the law brought God’s favor on the child and this was reflected in his maturation.
Through the witness of Simeon and Anna, Israel acknowledges the end of a long period of history and the beginning of a new era. The fulfillment now includes Israel and the gentiles, going beyond the promise.
Simeon’s witness does not spring from ordinary reflection on the Jewish tradition, but from the Holy Spirit who gives him a special revelation, which led him to go to the temple at the moment his parents brought him, AND to recognize him as the consolation and salvation of Israel AND to proclaim him as such. But before he departs from history he blesses God, bestows God’s blessing on Jesus’ father and mother. Then announces the sufferings yet to come. Anna in contrast to Simeon, never left the temple. Simeon’s words were to the circle of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Anna “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. This pairing of a male and female figure is common in Luke.
At the Baptism of Jesus, we heard three weeks ago, we heard the account in Matthew. John was having trouble baptizing Jesus. Luke’s scene of the presentation presents us with a vision of who Jesus is and what he would be about. The witness of Simeon and Anna tell us what kind of Messiah Jesus will be. Mary and Joseph were amazed at what was said about him.
I would like to repeat what I said last Sunday: The importance of all this is captured for me in a footnote in the Jerusalem Bible. This quote jumped out at me:
“THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD…IS TO BE REASSERTED BY AN ACT OF SUPREME INTERVENTION ON THE PART OF GOD AND OF HIS MESSIAH.” It seems to me we have not grasped the power in this statement. With Jesus a great newness has arrived. Do my ideas of God express an awareness of this new reality? Seems to me that many people prefer the God of John the Baptist and are afraid of God. Many Catholics have been so preoccupied with doctrines and dogma to the detriment of living the Gospel of Jesus. The book of the Prophet Malachi starts this way: vs. 2 “I love you, says the LORD.” But the second verse reads: “but you say, “How do you love us?” We must spend more time on accepting that God loves us. We must spend less time being afraid of God. It would be very fruitful to explore how God loves me. I personally have been spending more time appreciating creation, the universe, the intricacies of my body, the blessings of animals, the beauty and variety of birds, the goodness of people, their generosity and commitment.
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