IV.O.T. Mal 3: 1-4; Heb 2: 14-18; Lk 2: 22-40
PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE.
The birth of Christ was revealed by three kinds of witnesses in three different ways -- first, by the shepherds, after the angel's announcement; second, by the Magi, who were guided by a star; third, by Simeon and Anna, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Today’s Gospel describes the Presentation of the Baby Jesus in the Temple. The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus is a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child in the Temple.
” According to Leviticus 12:2-8, a woman who bore a child was unclean for forty days following the birth of a son or eighty days following the birth of a daughter. Exodus 13:2, 12-13 prescribes 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 Book of Numbers 18: 15 taught that since every Jewish firstborn male child belonged to Yahweh, the parents had to “buy back” (redeem), the child by offering a lamb or turtledoves as a sacrifice in the Temple.
These are the rituals that St. Luke describes in today's Gospel passage. One of the rituals consisted in a new mother offering a sacrifice to God, to symbolize her awareness that, by bringing new life into the world, she participated in a special way in God’s own holiness and power. Usually, this sacrifice consisted of offering a lamb and a pigeon.
But St. Luke explains that Mary offers two pigeons instead of the normal combination. This tells us something important about Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. A stipulation of the Jewish law allowed an offering of two pigeons for those families too poor to afford a lamb (pigeons cost much less than lambs).
Jesus, became a member of a normal, humble, working class family. By this, God wants us to know that true, lasting happiness doesn't come from having a lot of money, or things, or achievements, or celebrity. If those things were the secret to meaning and happiness, then Jesus would have been born into luxury and comfort. Real happiness comes from a kind of wealth that no one sees, the wealth of a heart set on knowing and loving God.
This is why the Church has always spoken of the virtue of poverty: it is the virtue by which we recognize that our relationship with God is infinitely more valuable than anything else. When Jesus summarized his formula for happiness and spiritual maturity, he began by saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 5:3).
The virtue of poverty is not misery; it is interior detachment from material things, which is why he says, "blessed are the poor in spirit." This is the formula for true meaning and happiness - not money, but love: loving God and loving our neighbor.
Today's memorial of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple doesn't usually fall on a Sunday.
But whatever day of the week it does usually fall on, it is associated with a long-standing tradition of celebrating the special vocation to the consecrated life. In fact, almost every year on February 2nd, the Pope celebrates a special liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, to which he invites all the members of religious orders and other consecrated men and women who are living in Rome. Usually, thousands of them come together for the celebration. The vocation to the consecrated life is associated with today's Gospel passage, because when men or women consecrate their lives entirely to the service of God and the Church, they are offering themselves in a way similar to how Mary and Joseph consecrated Jesus. They present themselves to God, in response to a call that they feel deep in their hearts, and surrender their lives entirely to him, promising to live in poverty, chastity, and obedience for their whole lives.
In the first reading Malachi said, suddenly the Lord will appear in the temple. And when he did, he did in the form of a poor little baby. Simeon had the wisdom to recognize him as salvation prepared for the world and light for the gentiles.
We are also called to look for God’s presence not just in the Church, but all around us, God presenting himself in poverty and weakness. Am I able to recognize him as Simeon and Anna did ?
And as parents and grandparents we are called to raise our children and grandchildren every day to God and consecrate them for the service of God.
Every Holy Mass in which we participate is our presentation. 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 both that we are dedicated people consecrated to God and that we are obliged to lead holy lives and facilitate others to become holy as well. Thus we may be able to exclaim like Simeon at the dusk of our life: Now master, let your servant go in peace, today my eyes have seen your salvation.