|Sunday Gospel||Luke 2:22-40|
Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he 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 for all the nations to see,
a light to enlighten the pagans
and the glory of your people Israel.’
As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’
There was a prophetess also, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.
When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.
In this year of Matthew's Gospel, the most Jewish of gospels, how strange to hear Luke telling us of the Presentation at the Temple.
Why didn't Matthew tell the story himself? Because there would be no need. Every Jew knew what happens with the birth of a boy. This ritual that Luke describes in elaborate and seemingly perculiar detail, happened every single day at the Temple.
What seems to us like a clear recognition of Jesus' importance is revealed as a confirmation of how very traditional and ordinary Jesus and his family really are.
Mary and Joseph offer their son to be consecrated, not sacrificed. They wanted the protection of the Lord that every other mother and father asked for their child.
Even the witness of Simeon and Anna, now preserved throughout history, would not have been all that important. Their prayers are answered by the love of a baby who is seen through the Spirit's gift - a personal acknowledgment. After all, if the scriptures were taken seriously it wouldn't have been just Simeon waiting in the Temple.
But what value are the prophetic yearnings of an old man and woman? How often do you hear the elders wishing gifts and talents on the futures of the young, and raise a smile? Does a woman really need to hear that her new born child will, one day, break her heart?
The Presentation that seems so unique and wonderful is a confirmation that Jesus is one of us. A child presented to his community, as we all are, to receive God's blessing; the hopes and dreams of those who have waited for the next generation to rise in faith, and the tentative, ever care-ful love of a mother and father for a child who is truly God's gift.