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The Presentation of the Lord


A reading from the Book of the Prophet Malachi
(Chapter 3:1-4)
 
“Thus says the Lord God: I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me. And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek. … But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire. … He will purify the sons
of Levi.”
 
Who is Malachi, and who is the messenger he writes of? The name “Malachi” means “messenger.” This book was probably written after 500 BC by one or several prophets. The text talks about the sins and lawlessness of the people—especially the priests of the temple, who were not being just to the poor, widows, orphans, and aliens, and not paying their own contributions to the temple. These priests and other offenders will be purified “like gold or silver.” Throughout the history of Israel, there were many prophets who delivered this kind of message to the people, but especially to the priests of the temple who, above all, should have been examples for the people.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 24:7, 8, 9, 10)
 
“Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord” “King” is a kind of a foreign word for us who overthrew a British king to gain our freedom, but for the Israelites it conveyed the greatest of honors. It is in that spirit that we pray this Psalm of praise to God.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 2:14-18)
 
The author wants his audience to know this about Jesus: “Through death he might destroy the one who has the power over death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life.” This is important, because at that time many people believed that the devil controlled life and death. No! It is Jesus: “He had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” As we read today in the prophecy of Malachi and can read in the words of other prophets, the high priests were not always faithful and holy. They could not be effective ministers for the people in life and death. Jesus could and can.
 
Do you experience the presence of Jesus in your life? He is present always, especially in our times of greatest suffering, doubt, and need, and yes, even when death threatens us or those whom we love. Jesus is there for us in life and in death.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 2:22-40)
 
Biblical scholars tell us that Luke was probably a Gentile convert who had studied the Jewish scriptures. He also wrote the Acts of the Apostles and was a companion of Saint Paul on some of his journeys. His Gospel was written sometime after those of Mark and Matthew but well before that of John, which is believed to have been written around 90 AD. That is important, because it means that Luke wrote well after the death of Jesus, when the Church had spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Luke wrote as dozens of churches had sprung up, and many people had died as martyrs for their faith.
 
Luke’s Gospel is often referred to as the Gospel of the Spirit, because he uses that term, “Spirit,” more than any other gospel writer, and he sees Jesus as the fulfillment of a long line of Jewish prophets, but as much more. Simeon, described in this passage, has been waiting all his life for the Messiah: “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Sprit into the temple; and when the parents had brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God saying: ‘Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.’” As always, Luke makes the connection between his Gentile roots and his Jewish faith fulfilled in Jesus.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Image courtesy of freebibleimages.org.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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