02.02.2020 — In Solidarity with the unclean

Presentation of the Lord, Sunday – 2nd February 2020 — Gospel: Luke 2,22-40

In Solidarity with the unclean

The story of Jesus’ presentation in the temple at Jerusalem is one of the few stories in the gospels that deal with childhood of Jesus.

The Lucan account of Jesus’ presentation is motivated by specific requirements of the Law of Moses. Jesus’ parents are devout Jews and are faithful observers of the religious law concerning circumcision and the presentation of the first-born of the Lord (Ex 13,15). They show up at the temple to perform sacrifices associated with ritual purification after the birth of a child (Lev 12,2-4.6). The mother is considered unclean for forty days following the birth of a son or eighty days following the birth of a daughter. Forty days after Jesus’ birth, his mother underwent purification in the temple and gave the offering – a lamb for rich people, two pigeons for the poor. Here Luke takes the opportunity to point out that the Nazareth family belonged to the category of the poor. God’s love for the last ones, the sinners, the impure persons is the theme dear to the evangelist, for Jesus is often identified with the very people he reached out to save (1,52; 4,18-19; 6,20; 7,22-23). From the beginning of his Gospel, Luke places the family of Jesus not only among the poor but also among the unclean. Usually the purification applies only to the mother, Luke instead speaks of “their purification” (4,22), as if in solidarity with the sinful humanity, the entire holy family had gone to the temple in search of purification.

Luke makes it clear that Jesus, from the very beginning, is obedient to the Law of Moses. He also confirms the devotion of Joseph and Mary to this law. There are five references in our pericope: “according to the law of Moses” (v.22); “as it is written in the law of the Lord” (v.23); “as ordered in the law of the Lord” (v.24); “to do him according to the custom of the law” (v.27); “required by the law of the Lord” (v.39). In all this, Luke wants to emphasize the scrupulous observance by the holy family of the requirements of the law of the Lord. It is fitting that Jesus and the holy family was adhering to the will of the Father right from the first moment of his life. As the Law of Moses was God’s plan in the Old Testament for the salvation of the Jewish people, so is Jesus presented as God’s plan in the New Testament for the salvation of all people.

The newborn child represents the continuity of God’s plan of salvation. God’s providence, his Holy Spirit directing history, has always been at work. This same Spirit rested on Simeon, and guides him into the Temple. Anna also awaits to see the Messiah in faithfulness. Their testimony, as a prophet and a prophetess, to Jesus continues to reveal God’s plan. They represent the hopes and expectations of faithful and devout Jews who at this time were looking forward to the restoration of God’s rule in Israel. Therefore the presentation of Jesus in the temple brings hope to this fulfillment. In the eyes of these two aged people, Jesus is recognized as the promised Saviour of Israel; revelation of God’s salvation; and the redemption of Jerusalem. Simeon announces also the universal salvation: a light for revelation to the Gentiles and also the necessity of suffering in the mission of the Messiah.