Today's Feast of the Presentation, also known as Candlemas, has multifaceted perspectives. Do we discuss the mother's purification after birth, the thanksgiving and offering for the gift of a new child, or the child's dedication to God? Or the revelations of Simeon and Anna? Or Candlemas and Jesus as the light to the nations?
We see both parents of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, together making the long journey to Jerusalem. They are bringing their firstborn son, Jesus, to the Temple to God as required by law in the Book of Exodus. According to this law, every firstborn Israelite son and every firstborn Israelite animal belonged to God and had to be redeemed in a ritual of purification and redemption.
Parents that desired to buy back their children had to pay a member of the priestly family five shekels or 15 denarius, equal wages for 15 days' work (Nm 3:47-48). Moreover, every mother had to be purified after childbirth, including the sacrifice of a lamb or two turtledoves for the poor (Nm 18:15).
Joseph, the head of the Holy Family, brought Mary and the Infant Jesus to the Temple following God's law given to Moses about purifying the mother and redeeming the child. As we see both parents of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, together make the long journey to Jerusalem, we see an excellent example of husband and wife united in faith and practice.
They had accepted their duty and privilege to raise their son to obey God's commandments and be a good Jew. They set an example by bringing him to the Temple for these initiatory rites. Think how excited they must have been when two holy older people in the Temple recognized their child as chosen for great things and thanked God for him.
At the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the Holy Family is greeted first by Simeon and then by Anna. Simeon had spent many years awaiting the Messiah. Anna had spent many years fasting and praying in the Temple. They are two examples of holiness, awaiting the coming of Jesus. What a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people brought together by Jesus. Jesus is the one who unites generations.
Having fulfilled all the requirements of God's law, Joseph and Mary returned to Galilee, to their hometown. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.
Today, Catholic Christians present their children to God in baptism and teach them to continue to present themselves in Confession and by actively participating in the Eucharistic liturgy regularly. Active involvement means being conscious of the presence of the Lord and praying, singing, and acting in union with the whole assembly while being open to receiving the grace of God.
So, we must live our daily lives with the awareness that our children and we are consecrated to God and that we have a duty to live holy lives. Our godparents gave us to the Lord on the day of our baptism, let us remember and pray for them. Like Simeon and Anna, they proclaimed to us what they had come to recognize for themselves in Jesus. May we, too, do the same.
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