Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
Daily Scripture Analysis

Daily Gospel

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

The Presentation of the Lord (Feb 2)

 

Readings: Mal 3:1-4; Heb 2:14-18; Lk 2:22-32.

1/ First Reading: RSV Malachi 3:1 "Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? "For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.

2/ Second Reading: RSV Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. 16 For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

 

3/ Gospel: RSV Luke 2:22 And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; 30 for mine eyes have seen thy salvation 31 which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."


Written by: Fr. Anthony Tien M. Dinh, O.P. 

I. THEME: Jesus came to the temple to meet his people.

           

            The temple signifies God’s presence among His people. It begins with the Tabernacle when the Israelites were journeying forty years in the desert. After they settled down in the Promise Land, king Solomon built the First Temple in Jesusalem and moved the Ark into this temple so people could pray and offer their sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins. When the First Temple was completely destroyed by Babylonians and people were on exile in 721 BC, God let Cyrus, the Persian king, set them free and came back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Second Temple, which was dedicated in 515 BC. When the Second Temple was agained demolished by the Roman armies in 70 AD, God’s presence was no longer limited at Jerusalem, but expanded to all churches in the world. Wherever there is a church, God’s presence is with people until the Last Day.

            Today readings emphasize God’s presence in the temple to welcome His people anytime they come to meet Him. In the first reading, the prophet Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, foresaw the Day that the Lord himself shall come to visit his people to purify them from all of their sins. A messenger shall come in advance to prepare a way for him. In the second reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews described the manner of God’s presence: He shall be incarnated in human form to live among people; they can see him in human flesh. He shall go through all human suffering so that he can have compassion, help and take away all of their sins. In the Gospel, the elder Simeon was the first people to see the Lord in human form when Joseph and Mary brought him to the temple to meet his people. Simeon asked God to take him away because he has seen the salvation with his eyes as foretold by prophets.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: “The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.”

            The Book of Malachi was written after the Exile, about 515-400 BC. Like other prophets, Malachi believed the reign of the Messiah is near: “Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”

            According to Malachi, a messenger shall come before the Messiah to prepare a way for him. When this messenger finishes his preparation, the Messiah shall come anytime.

1.1/ The messenger’s role: The Jewish tradition believes the Day when the Messiah comes shall be a terrible day for the wicked, but a hope for the remnant. The prophet Malachi foretold what shall happen in this day: “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap;he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord.”

            The messenger’s two main duties in preparing a way for the Messiah are to refine and to purify people’s mind so that they shall be ready for the Messiah’s coming. Two material things are used by the messeger are fire of the refiner and detergent of the fuller. Fire is used to find out real gold and to purify them from unclean mixture. Detergent is used to wipe out all dirt in clothing. What the messenger needs to purify and to refine are human minds so they can be firmed in their feet on the Lord’s day.

            Malachi accused the priests of their sins because they were lazy and despised God in worship. This is why God didn’t accept their offerings; He shall choose the more purified offering (Mal 1:1-2:17). Therefore, the main people that Malachi aimed to correct are the Levites: “He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord.Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.”

1.2/ The prophet Elijah was the Messiah’s messenger: Malachi continued to reveal about this messenger: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse"(Mal 4:5-6). Luke took Malachi’s prophecy and applied to John Baptist in his Benedictus: “And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared" (Lk 1:16-17).

            The duty of people to God must be in parallel with their duties to neighbors, especially to those who are in their family. When their vertical relationship to God is neglected, their horizontal relationship with others is also suffered. God’s messenger must pay attention to the reconciliation between human beings in their family and community.

2/ Reading II: Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect.

            When Christianity was spread in the Roman and Hellenistic cultures, two difficult questions that the Church must explain for them to understand are:

            (1) Why must Jesus be incarnated? To the Greek, God is purely spirit; there is absolutely no material in Him. To liberate themselves and to unite with God, people must try to set them free from their body, a prison that confines human soul, by some kind of a secret knowledge. The Christianity is completely on the opposite: Jesus must take human form to liberate people from sins because people couldn’t do as the Greek advertised.

            (2) Why must Jesus be suffered? The Greek and the Jews don’t believe God must suffer; only people must endure suffering. To them, a God who suffers is no longer God. They reasoned: If God doesn’t have power to overcome suffering, how can He help people to overcome their suffering? Christianity is also opposed their belief in saying: Salvation can’t be achieved if Christ didn’t go through his Passion and die on the cross. The author of the Hebrews answers these two questions as follows:

2.1/ Jesus must be incarnated to take a human form: To destroy sins and death, Jesus must have a human body to die and to compensate for human sins; without a body, how can he die? The author reasoned: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham.” Jesus didn’t remain in death, he resurrected in glory and became the first fruit of all who were resurrected from their death. He is the forerunner who went first to open the way for his brothers and sisters to follow him on that way.

2.2/ Jesus must become a man in all respects: The author recognized the necessary of Jesus’ completely becoming a human being except sin: “Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people.” The purposes of Jesus’ complete becoming a man are:

            (1) He can be really regarded as a man: To be a man is to suffer and to die.

            (2) He can understand and have compassion with human fate: If a person doesn’t go through suffering and death, he shall not completely understand and have compassion for those who are in that situation.

            (3) He can effectively help those who are in such situation: “For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.”

            In short, God has authority in both life and death. He can let His Son to be incarnated, suffered, died and resurrected; nothing is impossible to God. The one thing we need to always remind ourselves is that: Let us never apply human way of thinking to God.

 

3/ Gospel: The examples of those who lived according to God’s way.

3.1/ The Holy Family kept God’s Law: Jerusalem temple is the center place of the Israelites. The Holy Family, though they were poor, kept the Law by fulfilling their obligation. So, when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."

3.2/ Simeon believed in God’s promise and the Holy Spirit’s guidance: The reasons why Simeon was one of the first persons to encounter Jesus are because he frequently visited the temple and strongly desired to inherit God’s salvation. Mark described his characters as follows:

            (1) Simeon was righteous and devout. He was looking for the consolation of Israel and the Holy Spirit was upon him. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Inspired by the Spirit, he came into the temple to encounter the Lord.

            (2) When Jesus’ parents brought him in the temple to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - Churches are places where people encounter God to pray, to be guided, and to receive necessary blessings for human life.

            - We need to prepare for our mind every time when we come to churches to meet God. If we come to there with an unprepared mind, hurry and disrespect, we can not encounter God and receive His blessings.