Living the Law of the Lord
Presentation of the Lord
9-12 year olds
This Sunday, February 2nd, is exactly 40 days after Christmas. (You can check this on a calendar. Start at Christmas day--count December 25 as day number 1--and count 40 days and you should arrive at February 2.) For the Jewish people, God set the 40th day of life as important. So on February 2nd, the church takes a break from Jesus' adult life and returns to look at the 40th day of his life as a baby.
In the Law, Jewish mothers are directed to go to the Temple to offer a sacrifice to God 40 days after the birth of a baby boy. It is written:
If she cannot afford a sheep, she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement on her behalf, and she shall be clean. (Leviticus 12:8)
Mary brings the two birds to the Temple; she is following the Law that God gave to Moses for her people. This is how she expresses her devotion to God. We can say that she is "living the Law."
Also, when Jewish parents give birth to their first boy baby, the Law gives them a way to remember the covenant with God--God who saved them from slavery in Egypt, God who spared the first born son of each Jewish family while taking each first born son of the Egyptians. They have a choice: bring the baby boy to the Temple to present him as a servant of God, or pay some money to "redeem" the child. (This is language we might not understand so well. We might think of this like "redeeming a coupon"--a coupon for remembering the covenant.) St. Luke does not tell us anything about Mary and Joseph bringing any money. However, he tells us that they do bring Jesus to the Temple,
to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”)
Mary and Joseph are living the Law of the Lord.
In fact, we hear about the Law of the Lord, one way or another, 5 times in this reading. When something is repeated in the Bible, we sit up and take notice. Something important is being said.
Mary and Joseph are Jewish people who are faithfully living the Law. Into this faithful Jewish family, Jesus is born. Jesus, the saviour of the world, born into a poor Jewish family. How will anyone ever know about this great thing that has taken place? There is no internet to broadcast this event all around the world. There are no TV crews, no 24 hour news stations. All those Gentiles, living in darkness, not knowing the One true God, how will they ever know about the great light? Mary and Joseph have no way of telling the world.
Are they worried about this? Isn't it their job to tell the world? But they say nothing. They just carry out what is written in the Law of the Lord.
And what happens?
Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
While Mary and Joseph live the Law, not knowing what the greater Plan is, the Holy Spirit acts. The Holy Spirit inspires Simeon--guides him to Jesus, shows him who Jesus is, and gives him these words to pray. These words signal who Jesus is--light and salvation for all the world. These words, simple and beautiful, are now prayed all over the world by Catholics as part of Night Prayer.
When people live their lives faithful to God, the Holy Spirit has room to act.
We, too, can give the Holy Spirit room to act. We do not have to worry about the larger Plan or about those people we love who do not yet love and serve the One true God. That is not our job. We can live our lives faithfully, loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves. We can pray. We can work for good. Together with God, we write the history of each tomorrow--
and the Holy Spirit has room to move and play and sing.
The Plan of God unfolds.