Feast of the The Presentation of the Lord
Luke 2:22-40 or 2:22-32
When reading the appointed readings for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, I was struck by the incongruity of the first reading (Mal 3:1-4) with its responsorial psalm ("Who is this King of Glory? It is the Lord." Ps 24:7, 8, 9, 10) when read in the light of the second reading from Hebrews (2:14-18) and the Gospel (Lk 2:22-40).
Here’s the incongruity, the readings open up by proclaiming, practically shouting, "Here he comes! It is the Lord; it is the King of Glory!" These are rather jubilant shouts of praise and of submission to his power; after all, he is coming to refine the hearts of the sons of Levi so that these priests will offer worthy sacrifices "as in the days of old."
But when we read the second reading, we read of the humanity of Jesus, who became like his brothers and sisters, and suffered as they suffer, so that he could be a help, so that he could redeem their fallen humanity. In the gospel, the "Lord" is presented to God in the temple as a humble and poor child, offering the oblation that was prescribed for the poor.
The infancy narratives speak of Jesus’ being greeted by "Wise men" from the East. They brought royal gifts to him. But when Jesus is brought to the Temple, in fulfillment of the prescript of the law, he comes empty handed (but for the offering of the poor), and he is recognized and welcomed by two old folks whose days were running out, Simeon and Anna.
From his parents’ arms, he reaches out to the faithful Anna, who was among the first to preach the name of Jesus; and the watchful Simeon. As he will do in his public ministry, he offers them a glimpse of the Kingdom now imminent.
It is in the simplicity of his parents’ lives, and of his humble appearance in the temple, that the divinity of the child is cloaked.
This portrayal of Jesus at his Presentation will later be the subject of the beautiful Pauline hymn in the letter to the Philippians (2:5-11), well worth recalling on this feast of the Presentation, his dedication to his Father was fulfilled in his "attitude" or "mindset" which Paul praises, and which is truly worthy of praise when we imitate Christ in this way:
Have among yourselves that same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who through he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the Glory of God the Father.
So, maybe there is no incongruity among the readings. Beneath the traditions of the Jewish Scriptures we read as Reading 1 and its Responsorial Psalm, and the New Testament, Christian Scriptures we listen to as Reading 2 and the Gospel, there is the divine wisdom of salvation being borne to the temple in the arms of Mary and Joseph, recognized by the probably cataract-fogged eyes of Simeon and Anna, and proclaimed at once by Anna to the Temple precincts. The first reading was right, …every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.