Commentary on the Gospel of
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
Today’s gospel reading presents the Holy Family as a devout Jewish family, knowledgeable of the Law and faithful to it. This faithfulness is articulated three times: ...just as it is written in the law of the Lord ...in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord ...When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord... The Torah was what guided their lives and the family atmosphere was an atmosphere of faith. Jesus grew up in that kind of family atmosphere.
We are told that one specific purpose of their trip was: ...to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtle doves or two pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. But that is not what Leviticus prescribed for the people at large: they were to offer a lamb. Only if the poor could not afford it, could they substitute for the lamb a pair of turtle doves or two pigeons. They were allowed to substitute, because Mary and Joseph’s family were officially recognized as living below the poverty line. Yes, Jesus was in a position to resonate with people’s material struggles and the poor recognized that he was on their side. They themselves were poor, but poor with spirit.
Jesus’ experience and preferential option challenges us to be focused on what we are, not on what we have or can afford. A challenge to recognize and to own our uniqueness before the God who gives us life, without letting what is peripheral (important, yes, but still peripheral) derail our attention to what is central. What we are is far more important than anything we may have.
We are also told that The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him, really a soft way of saying that they did not understand, that they were “not getting it”. This not-understanding had become a Leitmotiv in Mary’s life, but she kept pondering in her heart ...all the way to Calvary. This pondering in her heart led her to move from not understanding to not needing to understand. We need to pray for this gift of pondering in our hearts, so we can be led from not understanding –and there will be such moments– to not needing to understand.