Saturday, January 15, 2011

Joyful Mysteries: 4th, The Presentation

Luke 2:22-40 The Presentation of Jesus

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the Child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took Him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, You may let your servant go in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for Your people Israel.” The Child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about Him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted ‘and you yourself a sword will pierce’ so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the Child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The Child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon Him.

In the 4th Joyful Mystery we contemplate the presentation of Christ in the temple according to the law. According to the Mosaic law, every first born male child was to be consecrated to the Lord. To consecrate the child Mary and Joseph take Christ to the temple. The temple was filled with people who knew the Scriptures and studied the prophets endlessly. They would have known the prophesies about the Messiah inside and out.

According to the account in Luke 2, there is no mention of any of the priest, scribes, pharisees or scholars of the law who recognize Christ for who He is. A continuing theme throughout the Gospel is that these scribes, pharisees and priests aren't really focusing on God. They are focusing on themselves. The Gospel points out time and again that these people are more concerned with the power and prestige that comes to them because of their station than they are about serving God.

However, two people do recognize Him immediately. Simeon and Anna. It appears from the little that is said about them that they were not concerned with their own stations but rather they spent their lives focusing on God. Simeon was a righteous man who was "awaiting the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25). Anna, "never left the temple, but worshiped night and day" (Luke 2:37).

To be sure, the lesson here is not that it is bad to follow the regulations and rituals of our faith. Simeon did follow the Jewish law. The reading says  "The man was righteous and devout" which, in Bible speak, means he followed this law. The lesson is that we must practice our religion for the right reason. We must practice our religion out of love of the LORD not to build ourselves up as "Holy Rollers".

To put it into terms of Catholicism, maybe it would be fair to say that the scribes, the pharisees, Simeon and Anna all attended Mass every Sunday and Holy Day, said their prayers before meals, read the Bible and said the Rosary everyday. In other words, both followed  the practices of the religion. The scribes and pharisees did it so that others would look at them and say "oh, they are so holy". While Simeon and Anna did it out of genuine love of GOD understanding that he gave them the Church and her practices and regulations to draw them to Himself.

This is one thing that I have come to see over time contemplating the 4th Joyful Mystery, "The Presentation", and that is that those who focus on themselves are bound to miss it when God is present among them, while those who focus their attention on God will surely recognize Him when comes into their presence.

What lessons do you see in this mystery. Please use the comments area below to let me know.

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