It was really a “liturgical bummer” to find out that Feast of the Presentation of the Lord was this Sunday and that we would not be reading the Beatitudes at Mass. It would have been a good follow-up to the theme at the core of the homilies this year: any parish should be a place where disciples are made, and the Beatitudes are the New Commandments for the followers of Christ.
The gospel text of the Presentation is a story unique to Luke’s gospel (Luke 2:22-40). It is “evangelically” ironic that the same Law that Jesus will challenge takes Mary and Joseph to the Temple, the institution that will later condemn Jesus. We may also wonder, did Mary and Joseph need any purification? Did Jesus need a presentation? What do we do with a gospel like this?
A quick application of the Historical Criticism (a literary method to approach the meaning of a text, placing it in its historical context–for more info, click here) may come to our assistance. The legal custom of presenting the first-born to the Temple was a “ransom” the Israelites paid in memory of the deliverance from the slavery in Egypt, the night of Passover. In Exodus 13:2-3 we read: “The Lord said to Moses: Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals is mine. Moses said to the people, ‘Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Thus, from the very beginning of Jesus’ history in Luke’s account, there is a connection with the Exodus-Passover theme.
I do not know if the homily will follow this hint, yet, and your comments will be very much appreciated as I admit being unforgivably behind this week. But let me say that I believe the biggest gap between the original readers of the gospel and ourselves is our lack of knowledge of Old Testament scriptures and traditions. I also believe the theme of the Exodus is one of the less explored in Catholic preaching and imagination. It seems clear that the life of Jesus is an exodus, and the gospels contain multiple symbolic references to it: the desert, the sea… Even when the text states that Jesus goes to pray during the night, it is a clear reference to the most important of Nights, the Passover.
Read the gospel for this Sunday and let me know what you think. Your pastor (me or someone else) will appreciate it.