Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(II Maccabee 6:18-31; Luke 19:1-10)
The readings today tell the stories of two Jewish heroes. The first is an old man, Eleazar, whose lengthy life has become the source of sorrow. Foreigners are imposing their ways on his native Israel. What is worse, the people are cooperating with the oppressors. Now his own friends call him to join in their abandonment of God’s law. He resists the temptation and pays the price of fidelity with his life.
The second hero is an unlikely tax-collector. Zacchaeus supposedly takes what doesn’t belong to him under government auspices. But really he is a man who is so righteous that he exults in the possibility of seeing Jesus, God’s prophet. He proves his zeal by showing Jesus that he goes beyond the law’s letter. He is willing to give half, not just a tenth, of his belongings to the poor and pay back four times, not just twice, if he has extorted anything from anyone.
There is another Jewish hero whom we celebrate today. She was as faithful as the morning sun in following the law. She could not refrain from singing God’s praises. Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple. She is dedicated to God who will ask her to give birth and educate His Son, Jesus. Because she too has lived a righteous life, the responsibility will not be impossible. Because she can count on God’s grace, she will accomplish the task with distinction.