The Presentation of the Lord
Theme of the week: What to do when my intellect conflict with a Church teaching? Do I question? Do I reject? What is the right response in faith?
The First Reading foretell the coming of one who “sit as a refiner and purifier of silver”, refining humankind “like gold and silver” (verse 3). He is none other than our Lord Jesus, who is God Himself. In today’s feast, we celebrate the presentation of the baby Lord Jesus at the temple.
The Gospel describes the episode that is the centre of today’s feast – the Presentation of the Lord. According to Jewish custom, the mother of a new born boy is considered unclean. Hence it is necessary for her to be purified by presenting the newborn baby at the temple when he is 40 days old. But this is no ordinary boy. He is Jesus who is God Himself. Why would Mary and Joseph subject Jesus to the Jewish custom? Don’t they know Jesus is greater than the custom? Not only has ancient prophets like Malachi in the First Reading foretell about Jesus the Lord, Mary herself have heard the angel declared Jesus to be “the Son of the Most High”, one whom “the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David” (Lk 1:32). And didn’t the angel also declared Mary to be “full of grace” (Lk 1:28)? How could one who is “full of grace” be uncleaned having just given birth to “the Son of the Most High”? Do I feel like that sometime, when a Church teaching does not sit well with my intellect?
We belong to a Church that is two thousand years’ old. It is rich in teachings and customs handed down to us through the generations. We live in an age where the education level of the general population has risen considerably since the founding of the Church. Today, many of us have good education and are highly intellectual in our thinking. More so than in Gospel times, this creates an environment where individual intellect is often pitted against ancient Church teachings. Have you had such an experience? When my intellect is pitted against ancient Church teachings and customs that I do not understand or agree, what is my response? Do I question the teachings and customs; sometimes even rejecting them outright? What is the right response in faith?
In presenting the Lord Jesus according to the Jewish custom, Mary and Joseph provided us a great example. In spite of them being well aware of who Jesus is, respectfully and with great humility, they follow the custom and presented Jesus at the temple. When there is a conflict between a Church teaching and my intellect, reflecting on the example of Mary and Joseph, am I too able to humbly accept Church teachings that are inspired by God and have stood the test of time?
By accepting what was required of them by their faith, Mary and Joseph brought forth a great outpouring of grace. Simeon and Anna, the two holy person who encountered Jesus, had their faith greatly enriched that day. By presenting Jesus at the temple, Mary and Joseph also become the foreshadow of Christ’s ministry on earth. For as the Second Reading explains, Christ shares our humanity (verse 14), he is like us in every respect (verse 17) except sin (Heb 4:15). Just as his parents submit themselves to laws of the human world, Christ submits Himself to the natural law of being a human, accepting suffering and death. It was through death that Christ destroys “the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (verse 14). By His death, Christ reconcile us to God, bringing us closer to the source of all truths.
Is there a Church teaching that sit uneasily with you? Rather than questioning or reject it, are we prepared to humbly accept that perhaps we have either misinterpreted the teaching or simply not understand it fully? And just as Simeon and Anna encountered the Holy Family at the temple, be rest assured that our submission will be a channel of grace, bringing us closer to God’s truth. May the Holy Spirit be with you.