Grace to you!
I wish to use the feast of the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple to reflect on lessons related to Jesus and the Law.
If as Christians, our lives are to be modeled after Christ, then how did Christ see the Torah and its commandments? How did he relate with the traditions of his people?
Christ Jesus did not abolish the Law of the Old Testament. The feast we, as Catholics, celebrate today called “The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple” honors the day the child Jesus was presented to the temple in Jerusalem by Mary, his Mother, and Joseph, his foster father.
In fact, in addition to fulfilling this Law of Moses, the dedication of the first male child in the temple, as prescribed in the book of Exodus 13:12-15 and Leviticus 12:1-8, two other Laws were fulfilled: namely, the ritual of circumcision, and the ceremony of purification, which Mary had to go through. It was more or less a ritual practice during the time of Jesus Christ among the Jews.
In Jewish law at the time, a woman was considered ceremonially unclean after giving birth and would be presented in the temple 40 days after childbirth before she could join in the Jewish religious ceremony in the temple (see Lev. 12:1-8).
One may, therefore, ask: why must Jesus, the Lawgiver, fulfill these Laws, which were not necessary? We are quite familiar with numerous occasions Jesus upended the human laws of his time, making many to accuse him of being against the Law and Moses. Or why would his parents follow the tradition of their people?
On the one hand, it shows us we can’t run away from our culture. It’s part of our identity. By the grace of God we can redeem aspects of our culture, which do not glorify God. On the other hand, it shows Jesus as truly Jewish. He wasn’t a mixed Jew. The Messiah was and is a Jew, though God also.
A more Christ-based answer is given in Matthew 5: 17-18, when Jesus said he has come not to abolish the laws but to fulfill them, to redeem them. He weeded out human adulterations from the law, and kept intact the divine will for the Law. By so doing, we could see the purity of every law of God.
Similarly, the Letter to the Hebrews offers another answer. “Therefore he (Christ) had to be made like his brethren in every respect (including keeping the Law), so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiations for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” Hebrew 2:17-18)
It’s human to have laws. Good laws should be followed because they fulfill God’s plan inscribed in nature. Obeying them does not limit our freedom, they make us truly free for the best we can be.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.