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/ Weekly Message / Weekly Message 02-03-08: Meeting Of The Lord In The Temple
Weekly Message 02-03-08: Meeting Of The Lord In The Temple

Meeting Of The Lord In The Temple

At the recent feast of our Lord Jesus Christ, we witnessed him submitting to the Law and being circumcised in the temple of God at eight days of age. His parents fulfilled the law of the Covenant and they probably were not certain He is the physical manifestation of the covenant of God made thousands of years earlier. But St. Paul reminds us, "No matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. The infant that Joseph held during the ritual circumcision was the very "Yes" of God to the promises of the covenant being symbolized. Not only did this ritual fulfill the requirement of our Creator that the Chosen People be physically different because of their relationship with him, He also expects that our second dimension, our soul, the first of the duality in which we are created, is also different.

So today we come to the second portion, according to the Old Covenant requirement, a woman was to wait thirty three days after circumcision before offering the first born son at the temple. "...and then she shall spend thirty-three days more ... and shall not enter the sanctuary until the days of purification are fulfilled" Leviticus 12: 4. In speaking to Moses, our God said, "Consecrate to me every first born that opens the womb among the Israelites ... for it belongs to me" Exodus 13: 2. The redemption of this first born male was to be a reminder that "...the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand" Exodus 13: 16. So from the very beginning of his earthly life among us, the Lord is already participating, even if only in a ritual way, in the continuing redemption of his creation.

Mary and Joseph out of obedience to the command of God, journey once again to Jerusalem and its glorious temple. Like all devout Jewish parents, they present their infant to the Lord to participate in sacrifice and redemption. Once again the passion of the Cross is made manifest in his destiny. They thus symbolize in a living way the act of giving him up literally saying, "He is yours, 0 Lord and we return him to you." Then they would immediately redeem him or, in effect, buy him back by offering the prescribed yearling lamb for the holocaust and if a family of lesser means, two pigeons or two turtle doves was given.

Few teachings are more important and consistent in God's revelation to us than the doctrine of redemption. The Hebrew word is padhah, meaning to "to redeem by paying a price." The New Testament tells us Christ came to fulfill for us by his life, the very rite Mary and Joseph observed as they brought Christ to the temple on the fortieth day. St. Paul teaches us, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace" Ephesians 1: 7. He draws a parallel from a Jewish perspective of our entrance into the family of God. We are thus considered adopted sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. What was true in a tangible sense after the birth of a Jewish son is true of us

in a spiritual sense after our rebirth in the waters of Baptism so that we also become "sons" and daughters of our God. All need redemption and our God has provided it. The wonderful picture of us, however, is that we are not bought back from God by our natural parents. Rather, Christ buys us from our natural parentage which is sinful flesh, to impart to us the grace of our heavenly Father. We have been redeemed and we must continue to live as redeemed people. We must cooperate with the grace imparted us in baptismal water and live up to all its challenges so that salvation is ours personally. All this has been provided us, but we must make it our own. God has done his part so it remains for us to match up his almighty power with our eagerness and upright lifestyle.

Thus we see the meaning of what St. Paul also teaches us, "...though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" 2 Corinthians 8: 9. Joseph and Mary offered the smallest sacrifice required for the spiritual occasion in the temple. How appropriate it is the first time He encounters those of the Chosen People for the first time whom He came into the world to redeem and save. How fitting that Mary and Joseph held in their arms the greatest sacrifice a holy God could ever make for their eternal purification. In the epistle to Titus, we read, "It was he who sacrificed himself for us, to redeem us from all unrighteousness and to cleanse for himself a people of his own, eager to do what is right" Titus 2: 14.

Handed over to the holy priest Simeon, the parents of the Saviour had him wrapped in a blanket. His earthly parents lifted him along with Simeon to the eternal Father and in essence, purchased him from heaven, to stay among us for a short while, for a lost world to be reconciled. That baby one day will buy them and us from earth for the glory of everlasting heaven.

Today we see and witness the perfection and continuity of God's Word in Christ, the perfect joining of the Old Testament promise and New Testament fulfillment. No wonder Simeon is inspired to sing aloud "Now 0 Master, you can dismiss your servant in peace; for you have fulfilled your word. My eyes have seen your salvation displayed for all people to see; a redeeming light to the Gentiles, the glory of your people, Israel" Luke 2: 29 -32.

Being identified as the "Light" of the world, candles are today blessed to remind us of their holy reference to Christ and as reminder as we see them burning before us that in obedience, there is life, that in the consistent honoring of God's revelation to us, our relationship with the Holy Trinity grows and deepens. The precepts of the Lord are right, making the heart glad. God's commandments are radiant and bright, making the eyes light up. God's ordinances are reliable and altogether righteous. Everything about Father, Son and Holy Spirit is consistency, stability and truth. Glory to our God!

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