Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

(Malachi3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40)

We will find the gospel today as typically Lucan in at least three ways. First, it highlights the Jewish background of Jesus. Not only are Mary and Joseph observing Jewish religious law, but also Simeon and Anna seem to be lifted off the pages of the Old Testament. With Simeon’s prophecy that Jesus is destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel, we see a narrative featuring both the Law and the Prophets.

Second, a small but significant characteristic of Luke is his gender inclusiveness. He cannot help include Elizabeth along with Zachariah in his birth account of John the Baptist. Later on, he will tell of the women disciples (although he does not use that term) of Jesus. When the Lucan Jesus tells the parable of the happiness of the shepherd who discovers the lost sheep, he will also tell of the joy of the housewife who finds the lost coin in her house. In the passage today Luke pairs the prophetess Anna with the holy man Simeon as similarly jubilant to witness the coming of the redemption of Israel.

But most important, of course, is the way Luke sees Jesus. He embodies the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of Israel being a light to the nations. Likewise, he brings peace wherever he goes, in this case to the faithful Simeon who has waited for decades for the Messiah. But the light and peace that Jesus brings does not come without great cost. Jesus is “a sign that will be contradicted,” that is, he will be opposed and indeed martyred in the completion of his mission.