Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
February 2, 2014
Reading 1 Mal 3:1-4
Responsorial Psalm ps 24:7, 8, 9, 10
R. (8) Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Reading 2 heb 2:14-18
Gospel lk 2:22-40
Once there was small boy who was consistently late coming home from school. His parents warned him one day that he must be home on time that afternoon, or a price would be paid. But nevertheless he arrived later than ever. His mother met him at the door and said nothing. At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father's full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed. The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy's plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son. Indeed, a price would be paid, and it was the father who paid it.
Imagine, if you can, what this Father did for his son. He paid the price rightfully owed by the son. Why did he do this? AND—why did a price need to be paid? As it turns out, a price had already been paid—his parents undoubtedly were worried and fearful about where the son was—so, by his choices, the boy had already cost his parents dearly. What do we normally do when others have cost us? We demand retribution—a payback. What happens when others enact retribution? We want to respond in kind. The father’s choice broke the endless circle of payback. Though he had first been hurt, he chose sacrifice instead of retribution, to the cycle.
Today, we have the rare privilege to celebrate the Feast of the Presentation on Sunday. It is the Feast when a small child is brought to the Temple in observance of religious law. But . . . It is also the Feast of . . . the payback. It is also the Feast of . . . the end of retribution. It is also the Feast of . . . God’s sacrifice.
Because . . . it all happens in the Temple. This is the place where ritual sacrifices were made. For, having “come home late” for their obligations as God’s people, this is where the retribution ended. Instead of the people paying the price for their unfaithfulness—a punishment, God had given a way—a ritual sacrifice—to restore the relationship between God and his people. Yet, the sacrifices had become empty and without effect. As the prophet Malachi suggests, the ritual sacrifices of the people were no longer pleasing to God. They were empty—as the people merely offered them and then went on their unfaithful way. The prophet continues that only when the Lord himself comes into the Temple, the place of the end of retribution, that “the sacrifice might be pleasing to the Lord.”
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is about the fulfillment of this prophecy of Malachi. It is about the Lord himself coming into the Temple, offering a sacrifice pleasing to the Lord, ending the cycle of punishment and retribution through a pleasing sacrifice—a sacrifice that shows us the saving love of God.
Today, behold, we come into the Temple. Look over your life—see the truth—too often we have been late—late to respond to God’s love, going our own way. We have not loved God and loved neighbor. To be freed of the endless pattern of punishment and retribution, we need a saving sacrifice—and for it to be pleasing and effective, we need God to do it. And . . . see the words of Malachi fulfilled again: “suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek” to offer a sacrifice pleasing to God.
For, again today and each day, the Lord comes here to His temple, where, because we have wandered and are stubbornly late to our Christian obligations, God himself in Christ will take on the cost, end the retribution, and reconcile us to our God. Finally, then, we can respond as the prophetess Anna: the Lord has come to his Temple, we have been restored and made whole by the one sacrifice of Jesus. The endless cycle of sin, punishment, and retribution has ended. The perfect sacrifice of Jesus is offered to us here again. We now with Anna give thanks to God and speak about the child, the Savior, who brings the end of retribution and the fullness of the redemption for all the world through his saving sacrifice, where he gives us a way, not to endless punishment and retribution, but endless life.