|At the Main Altar of Holy Family Church|
Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!
The reason for the ritual of the presentation of the child Jesus to God is a law that requires every firstborn son to be consecrated to the Lord. This goes back to the night of the exodus when God sent the angel of death to take the life of every first-born male throughout the land of Egypt with the exemption of those who were behind the doors marked by the blood of the slaughtered lamb. Every first-born son belongs to the Lord and he had to be redeemed from the Lord at the price of an animal sacrifice…in the case of Mary and Joseph, a pair of turtle doves which were the offering of the poor.
Obedient to the law, Mary and Joseph brought the 40-day old Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord. Even without the ritual, the Lord Jesus already belongs to God. After all, God is his Father. Remember our meditation on Christmas night? We said that Jesus was born in one of the caves outside Bethlehem because there was no room in the inn. This also signified that Jesus did not belong to the world. He belongs to the Father. He is consecrated to the Father. He who is Mary’s first-born Son is the Only Begotten Son of the Father. “And we have seen his glory: the glory of the only begotten Son coming from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
And because he is consecrated to the Father, he will be a sign that will be contradicted by many. He came to his own and his own did not accept him. Contradicted will he be because he does not belong to the world. His teachings will directly contradict the teachings of the world. The values of the Kingdom are directly contradictory to everything that the world holds dear: wealth, power, influence, pleasure… His consecration to the Father was the reason for his life of obedience. He obediently accepted death, death on a Cross.
Abraham was promised a son even in his old age. When the promise was fulfilled, Abraham was put to the test. He was asked to offer his son in a sacrifice…something which, though difficult, Abraham was willing to do: “he who had received the promise was ready to offer his son.” Of course we know that before the sacrifice was consummated, an angel of the Lord kept Abraham from harming his boy. Isaac, Abraham’s son, became an image of Jesus, the only Begotten Son of the Father. Like Abraham, the Father was willing to offer his Son in the sacrifice on the Cross. But in his case, there was no angel who came to abort the sacrifice. The sacrifice was consummated. Christ obediently accepted death on the Cross. In the temple, Mary brought in the Lamb of sacrifice, Jesus her Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Simeon foresaw that Jesus would have to suffer deeply from those who rejected him and as a consequence, Mary would herself suffer with him in her heart: “A sword will pierce your heart.” Mary, being the first of the disciples, would be the very first to experience the hatred of the world on account of her association with Jesus: If the world hates you, know that it has hated me first. Like Mary, the disciple would have to suffer because he belongs to Jesus, and belonging to Jesus, he belongs not to the world but to the Father. Therefore, “Let us approach God who is thrice Holy to offer our life and our mission, both personally and as a community of men and women consecrated to the Kingdom of God. Let us make this inner gesture in profound spiritual communion with the Virgin Mary. As we contemplate her in the act of presenting the Child Jesus in the Temple, let us venerate her as the first and perfect consecrated one, carried by the God whom she carries in her arms; Virgin, poor and obedient, totally dedicated to us because she belongs totally to God. At her school and with her motherly help let us renew our ‘here I am’ and our ‘fiat’." (Benedict XVI, Homily on the Presentation of the Lord, 2010.)
Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!