We all get excited about the birth of a baby. The entire family prepares for that great moment. At the birth of a baby, everyone rejoices. As a priest, I am blessed to baptize them. So many times I've enjoyed watching young couples bringing their new baby to the Church. They are so excited about the birth of their child, so grateful to God for this child that they cannot wait to bring the child before the Lord, to thank him. I really believe that is what Mary and Joseph were doing when they walked into the Temple with Jesus. Forty days after Christmas on February 2nd we celebrate the feast of The Presentation of Lord! This year it falls on Sunday.
Why do we celebrate this feast? If we want to understand this feast, we need to know a couple of Jewish laws. In the book of Exodus, chapter 13:2 says, “Consecrate to me every firstborn; whatever opens the womb among the Israelites, whether of human being or beast, belongs to me.” Then Exodus 13:14, Moses says, “When your son asks you later on, ‘What does this mean?’ you will tell him, ‘With a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of a house of slavery.”
In Leviticus 12:6 Lord says to Moses, “When the days of her purification for a son or for a daughter are fulfilled, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a yearling lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or a turtledove for a purification offering.”
Beside knowing these two laws, the first reading from the book of Malachi could give us a further explanation. During the Babylonian exile, the Temple of Solomon was destroyed. After the Babylonian exile the Jews built a modest temple. They were lazy in their duties of religious responsibilities. There was a great need for someone to bring back them to the true love of God. The prophet foretold that God loved his people, so God; he would come to the temple to cleanse and purify the people.
In the Gospel of Luke, we see the fulfillment of the Old Testament. According to the law, Mary and Joseph offer sacrifices for the purification of Mary as well as for baby Jesus. Through the coming of Jesus, any further animal sacrifice is eliminated.
After Jesus' birth, Mary fulfills the Jewish right of purification after childbirth. Since she could not afford the customary offering of a lamb, she gives instead two pigeons as an offering of the poor. Like all godly parents, Mary and Joseph raised their son in the fear and wisdom of God. He, in turn, was obedient to them and grew in wisdom and grace.
Simeon, like all of us, wants to hold the new baby. When he does, inspired by the Holy Spirit he prophesied that Jesus was to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."
Presentation of the Lord and celebration of world day the consecrated life shows the importance of being the salt of the world. The religious men and women did great work for the church and the world. We know from our own experience with Sisters of Francis, Precious Blood Fathers or Benedictine Fathers. Their dedication made a difference in St. Anthony Catholic School and Parish, Immaculate Conception and St. Francis parishes. So this celebration reminds us to pray for them and for all the religious and at the same time pray for vocation. We had and have many vocations from our cluster.
At the same time, it is an invitation for each one of us to reflect on our own baptismal call. Do we recognize the indwelling presence of the Lord with us which we received at our Baptism? Do we share our faith with others?