The Presentation Of The Lord – Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Time Of Purification Has Come”.
Impurity, in biblical language, means death. Sin is the most dramatic expression of this impurity, because it contradicts life. How is God reacting to people’s impurity? Today’s readings give us the answer. He is not dismayed or angry; he is not disgusted with us and does not distance himself from us. He comes to us, not to reprimand us, or to humiliate us nor even to punish us. He becomes one of us and, through his holiness, makes us pure too.
In the first reading, Malachi promises his coming. The second reading develops this theme. The Son of God has chosen to be one of us and to share our human destiny. This why he can help us in our trials.
The Gospel shows the fulfilment of this promise. In obedience to the Law of Moses which prescribed that all first-born males should be consecrated to God. The parents of Jesus offer him in the Temple. In addition, the law of Israel states that only the mother must undergo the rite of purification after giving birth, but the Gospel speaks of their purification. All the Holy Family goes to the Temple and even Jesus makes himself impure to accompany us where God will make us pure.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
Malachi 3:1-4 .
A week is made up of 168 hours. Many people only dedicate one or two of these hours to God (Mass, prayers, rites and devotions…) while the rest are for us, to foster our own interests and look after our business. Religion is often seen as a set of devotional practices to be performed with varying degrees of faithfulness, in order to keep friendly relations with God. We often have a guilty feeling at the back of our minds urging us to give something to him, that he may be well disposed towards us and grant us his blessings. We also have an urge to please to avoid his punishment. Is this really what God wants us to do? God does not want conditional love!
Israel too had practised a religion: they offered sacrifices and incense in the Temple of Jerusalem. They fasted and raised songs and prayers, and yet the Lord – through the prophets – declared that this is not the kind of worship he wants. We read a condemnation of this wrong relationship with God in today’s first reading in the book of Malachi. He lived in a very difficult period, about 450 years before the coming of Christ. The chosen people were living a licentious life, and had abandoned the practice of love and justice; the poor were exploited, the priest’s behaviour was unworthy of their station and nobody expected God to keep his promises. This is how the verses preceding today’s reading describe the discouraged and misguided opinion of the people: there is no difference between the good and bad people, “every evil doer is good in the sight of the Lord”. Some even go as far to say: “Where is the just God?” (Mal 2:17).
The Lord’s reply to this provocative question is a solemn promise: “Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me”. He continues: after the coming of this messenger another mysterious person will appear, who will be called “The Lord”, “the messenger of the Covenant.” He, “will come to the Temple” (Mal 3:1).
The coming of Jesus fulfilled this prophesy. He entered into the Temple to purify it: he put an end to a religion founded on rites that had been turned into mere ‘external practices’ and he introduced the only religion acceptable to God: the religion based on love for others. Love has no need of Temples and can be practiced anywhere.
The Psalm likewise sings of God’s entry into the Temple: ‘Lift up your heads, O gates, and rise up, ancient doorways’, it pronounces. Then the one who enters is further described: ‘the King of glory, the Lord, mighty and man of war’. As in the first reading, he is named as ‘the Lord Sabaoth’, and, for the third time in this brief Psalm, ‘King of glory’. We wait in respectful admiration for what will follow.
2 Hebrews 2:14-18.
The second reading , from one of the most brilliant and original theological treatises in the New Testament, emphasises that Jesus (who for Christians is, after all, the one who is coming into his Temple) shares ‘flesh and blood with us’ in order that ‘through death he might annul the one who has the power over death, namely the devil’.
The Son of God did not stay up in heaven, pointing out to us the way to freedom on high. He did not tell us what we should do and how we should behave with cool detachment. He took a personal interest in us, got involved in our dramas, our anguish and our problems. He lived among us in poverty suffering greatly for the sins of others but loving us still and showing us the ‘Way’ to salvation. He asks us to ‘Follow Him’.
Jewish Law prescribed that all first-born of man and animal alike, be offered up to the Lord (Ex 13:1-6). However children could not be sacrificed, they had to be ransomed. The parents were to bring to the priests of the temple an animal, without blemish, to be sacrificed instead of the child. The rich offered a lamb, while the poor could only afford a couple of pigeons or turtle doves.
The parents of Jesus keep this law and Luke stresses the fact that the family of Nazareth is poor; it belongs to the class of the poor and therefore cannot afford to offer a lamb. Luke never fails to stress poverty in the family of Nazareth. In the Gospel passage of today we do find, however another fact being stressed five times (vv. 22-24, 27, 39): the Holy Family scrupulously observes all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord. Jesus has faithfully fulfilled the will of the Father, as manifested in Scripture from birth.
Children learn more with their eyes than with their ears. The way parents live and practice their Christian faith is the best catechesis for their children. If parents pray at home, the children will learn to pray with them. If parents read the Bible, their children will learn to search the ‘Light; for their life in the Word of God. If parents faithfully attend the meetings of the Christian community their children will become committed Christians too. If parents practice love, forgiveness and generosity towards their neighbour, their children will imitate them in this too. This is the ‘way’ and how Christian parents of today are expected to “consecrate” their children to the Lord.
Simeon is the symbol of the people of Israel, who, for centuries had been expecting the Messiah. On receiving the child Jesus, he blessed God and said “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared all the nations to see…” His gesture means that Jesus has come for the whole world and is not only the property of the Jewish people.
Simeon made a second prophecy, this time addressed to Mary. He told her that her son would be a sign of contradiction. The image of a sword piercing the soul of Mary has often been interpreted to signify that she was to suffer at the foot of the Cross. Not so. The Mother of Jesus is seen here as the symbol of Israel. In the Bible, Israel is seen as a woman; a mother who, made fertile by God, conceives and gives birth to a Son, the Saviour. Mary is a true symbol of Israel.
Anna the prophetess is 84: this figure is the product of 7×12 and carries a specific meaning: 7 means perfection while 12 stands for the people of Israel. Thus Anna is Israel that, having fulfilled its mission, presents the expected Messiah to the world.
The elderly do not feel useless if they live in expectation of the ‘Coming of the Lord’: there are so many humble things to do and their brethren know that their help is precious. They, like the elderly prophetess, have the task of speaking of Jesus to all who are in search for the true meaning and joy in their lives. The Gospel of today ends with the return of the Holy Family to Nazareth with the remark on the growth of Jesus.
Although he was God, he fully accepted his human condition and shared in the experiences of all people.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
Feast of the ‘Presentation of the Lord’ – Year A, we reflect on …
Sun. … Should we feel comfortable with the amount of time we dedicate to God? Many of us only dedicate one or two hours per week to God in Mass, prayers, rites and devotions. Are we really putting God first in our lives? Who are we fooling?
Mon. … Religion is often seen as a set of devotional practices to be performed with varying degrees of faithfulness, in order to keep friendly relations with God. We also have an urge to please him to avoid his punishment. Is this really what God wants us to do? What happened to loving the Lord our God and our neighbour?
Tue. … Israel offered sacrifices and incense in the Temple of Jerusalem. They fasted and raised songs and prayers, and yet the Lord, through the prophets, declared that this is not the kind of worship he wants. The sacrifice God wants is dedicating our lives to the ‘Way’ shown to us by Jesus in the Gospel.
Wed. … The Son of God did not stay up in heaven, pointing out to us the way to freedom on high. He lived among us in poverty. He took a personal interest in us, got involved in our dramas, our anguish and our problems. We should actively get involved in helping others not just sit on the side-lines offering advice.
Thur. … Education to faith is much more than teaching religious practices. It means instilling in the heart of a child a desire for “the Way” of love and self-immolation. We all need to become involved in the consecration of children to the Lord if we wish to help the Spirit to ‘renew the face of the earth’.
Frid. … The way we live and practice our Christian faith is the best catechesis for children. If adults pray at home, children will learn to pray with them. If adults read the Bible and search for ‘Light’, young people will learn to search for the ‘Light in the Word of God’. We control the value systems of the future by the ‘Way’ we live our lives! What a responsibility God has given us! Are we up to it?
Sat. … Simeon is the symbol of the people of Israel who, for centuries, had been expecting the Messiah. He was an exemplary old man: he was righteous and devout. He let the Holy Spirit guide him and so he was to know and understand the meaning and goal of his existence. Do we let the Holy Spirit guide us in order to understand the purpose of our lives?
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Heavenly Father, we pray that You fill the hearts of all believers with the Light of faith with love and joy. Like Simeon, may we one day be able to say: “Now, Master, you can let Your servant go in peace, just as You promised; because my eyes have seen and understood the salvation which You have prepared all the nations to see…”
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.