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The Presentation of the Lord

Giotto_di_Bondone_-_Presentation_of_Christ_in_the_Temple_-_WGA09082This Sunday we read St Luke’s account of the Presentation of the Lord. St Luke begins by giving the reasons for the Lord’s presentation. It was written in the Law of Moses that every first born male should be consecrated to the Lord. When we contemplate this event in the Gospel, it is easy to think about the idea of giving oneself to the Lord. I am reminded of Samuel who was confused when the Lord called him, Samuel had thought it his master Eli was calling Him. (1 Samuel: Chapter 3) Eli told Samuel to say “Here I am Lord”. When Jesus is presented in the Temple, He is in effect saying the same thing to His Father, “Here I am, Father”. This “Here I am” is the response that we all hope to give when the Lord calls us. Within the feast of the Lord’s presentation we can see the inspiration of our own vocations. Nonetheless, the feast and the Gospel account contain in one sense the whole mystery of salvation and much can be learned from contemplating this Sunday’s Gospel.

When we contemplate the unspoken “Here I am”, of Jesus in the temple, our minds and hearts are drawn to the cross. The presentation of Jesus to His Father cannot be thought about without recalling that it was the Father’s will that Jesus die on the cross. It is the Father’s will that humanity was to be redeemed by the sacrifice of the cross. This is why Simeon is able to say: “my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all nations”. (Luke 2:30-31) When Jesus is presented to the Lord in the Temple, it is the salvation of Humanity that is being prophesied by Simeon. The “Here I am” which is not spoken by the baby Jesus, is an anticipation of His words in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not My will, but Thy will”. (Matthew 26:39) In the time of Jesus, the presentation of the first-born in the temple would have been a joyous affair, yet for us who understand that the presentation is an anticipation of the Cross, the feast is tinged with sadness. This was especially true for our Lady.

We can place ourselves in the shoes of Mary, who heard Simeon’s words: “A sword of sorrow will pierce your own soul”. The feast of the presentation is one of Our Lady’s seven sorrows, and in the list it is called the prophesy of Simeon. This sword of sorrow is the cross, and St Luke is reminding us of Our Lady’s presence at the Crucifixion. When I think about the fact that Our Lady was present at the Crucifixion, I am struck by the fact that Our Lord permitted her to be there. A son who loves his mother, does not want her to see him suffer terribly. It is one thing to want one’s mother when one is slightly ill, but when one is suffering terribly as Jesus did on the cross, I do not think that Jesus as a man wanted to see his mother’s heart break to see Him hurt so. As God, He could have arranged things providentially, in such a way that He would have spared her the sight of His sufferings. I think that the very fact that Jesus’ did die in the presence of His mother, meant that there was a good reason for this. The reason can be seen in some of Jesus’ last actions on the Cross.

“When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” (John 19: 26-27) A simple reading of these words, we could conclude that Jesus is merely asking the disciple to look after His mother. However, His words are addressed to all disciples: “behold your mother”. In this we can see the plan of the Lord for His mother, she is to become the mother of all disciples. So when we hear this Sunday’s Gospel, let us be reminded of the reality of the cross which is present in this feast and think about the words of Simeon addressed to Mary. Let us also remember the sorrows of the Mother of God and the fact that she is Our Mother also.