Fulfilling the Law In Every Sense by Rev. Jerome Magat
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord. Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit the he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."
The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted - and you yourself a sword will pierce - so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty7-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
The Gospel narrative for the feast of the Holy Family places Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the Temple as they come to Jerusalem to present the child Jesus to the Lord, pursuant to the dictates of the Law of Moses.
This epic scene is replete with drama ss the Holy Family encounters Simeon and the prophetess, Anna. Simeonís cryptic prophecy amazes both Our Lady and St. Joseph. Any set of parents of a newborn baby would be taken aback if a stranger made such comments about their child. And yet, we know, as did Mary and Joseph, that Jesus was not an ordinary child. After all, the salvation of the world had come among them in the flesh.
On one level, we can appreciate the humble obedience of the Holy Family in adhering to the prescripts of the Law of Moses, even though Jesus had no real reason to be presented in the Temple insofar as it was the Lord Himself being presented to the Father.
And yet, it is precisely this fulfillment of the prescripts of the Law of Moses that ushers in the definitive ear of salvation in Christ. In the drama of the presentation in the Temple, Jesus closes the ear of the Mosaic law and begins the fulfillment of that law in His very person. Already in the Temple, we are given a foreshadowing of the sufferings of the Blessed Mother at Calvary and how Jesus would redeem Israel and the world.
To be sure, the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple is a unique setting in which to encounter the Holy Family on this feast. Perhaps we might prefer to contemplate them at home in Nazareth or in Bethlehem in the days immediately after Christmas. However, the Church proposes this reading for our medication in order to help us understand the cosmic significance of the infant Jesus and the place of the family in Godís designs for salvation.
In the Holy Family, we observe that God acts through the family in order to bring about the work of salvation. He willed that His only begotten Son be subject to human parents and receive His human formation within a family. In doing so, God shows us how Jesus truly identifies with the human experience, including family life.
Pope John Paul II once wrote that the future of civilization passes through the family. If that is true for the ordinary family, how much more true was it for the Holy Family? They are the model for family life: pure, unified, harmonious, obedient to the Fatherís plan, and teeming with mutual love. In this family, loving God with their whole heart, mind and soul was the first priority.
It was out of love for God that they experienced the meaning of family love. They embodies every virtue that every family ought to emulate. In an age where the family is plagued by divorce, infidelity, abortion, abuses of various types and disunity, the Church places the Holy Family before us to remind us of who God desires for us to live within the confines of family life Ė to fulfill the Law of Love that His son came to establish.
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