The account of Jesus’ birth is disconcerting. According to Luke, Jesus is born in a village in which nowhere is he welcomed. The shepherds had to look all over Bethlehem only to find him lying in a manger, in a remote place, with no other people there but his parents. Apparently, Luke sees the need to construct a second account. In this account, the child is rescued from anonymity and is publicly presented. What more fitting place is there than the Temple in Jerusalem to give a solemn welcome to Jesus as the Messiah sent by God to his people?
But Luke’s story will again be disconcerting. As Jesus’ parents approach the Temple with the child, the high priests do not come out to meet him, nor do other religious leaders. In just a few years they will be the ones to hand him over to be crucified. Jesus finds no welcome in that religion that is sure of itself and which have been forgetful of the suffering of the poor.
The teachers of the Law, who preach their “human traditions” in the Temple courts, do not come to welcome him either. Years later, they will reject Jesus for healing the sick on the Sabbath in violation of the law. Jesus finds no welcome in doctrines and religious traditions that do not make for a life that is more dignified and more wholesome.
Those who welcome Jesus and recognize him as God-Sent are two elderly folks with simple faith and open heart, who have spent their long lives waiting for God’s salvation. Their names seem to suggest that they are symbolic characters. The old man is named Simeon (“The Lord has listened”) and the old woman is named Anna (“Gift”). They represent so many people of simple faith who, in all peoples of every period, place their trust in God as they live.
Both are among those who are known as the “Poor of Yahweh” who make up the healthier environment in Israel. These are people who have nothing but their faith in God. They are not thinking of their fortunes or their well-being. They only wait for God’s “consolation,” which his people need, the “liberation” that they have been seeking generation after generation, the “light” that will brighten the darkness in which the people of the earth live. Now they feel that their hopes are fulfilled in Jesus.
This simple faith that waits for God’s final salvation is the faith of most people. It is a faith that is not so refined: it shows itself concretely in coarse and distracted prayers; its formulations are not that orthodox; it awakens above all in times of hardship and straits. It is a faith that God has no problem understanding and accepting.
José Antonio Pagola
February 2, 2014
Presentaion of the Lord (A)
Luke 2, 22-40