This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications and is included here with their permission.
“Mary and Joseph brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.”
It’s so exciting! The Lord is coming to his temple, his messenger is preparing the way and soon he’ll be here. It will be a great day of celebration, of feasting, joyfulness and thanksgiving. The Lord is coming to his temple! This is the good news that Malachi the prophet brings to the people of Israel who have longed for and dreamt of this day.
But Malachi also brings a warning that the great day may not be all celebration, joy and feasting. The day will also bring judgement from which there will be no hiding. All pretences, all arrogance, all false pride and self-satisfaction will be stripped away. Immorality and oppression, miscarriages of justice and the rejection of refugees and asylum seekers will be brought into the light of the Lord and judged according to his laws and values.
The Lord is coming to his temple, says Malachi, but are we ready for that day?
Nearly four hundred years after Malachi’s prophesy the Lord does indeed come to his temple. But he comes not as a powerful King but as a tiny, vulnerable baby. He’s not surrounded by a mighty army or even a protective bodyguard. He is held in the arms of his mother and his little hand grips his father’s finger. There is no grand welcome, no feasting or public celebration. The Lord is greeted in the temple only by two elderly people who have waited such a long time for this day. Only the Lord’s parents hear Simeon’s proclamation that he has now seen in this baby God’s salvation which is for all people of all nations.
It’s hard to believe that the Lord comes to his Temple in this quiet way but Simeon sees something of the baby’s future and knows that he will stir up controversy and face fierce opposition from his own people.
He will become a man who passionately defends the poor and needy, who heals those who are sick, releases those held captive by others or within their own minds, protects the accused, accepts the untouchables and treats everyone with loving kindness.
His parents sacrifice two small birds when they come to present their baby at the Temple. When he returns to Jerusalem Jesus will be offering himself as a sacrifice for others and that sacrifice will cause him agony of body and mind and his mother will indeed feel as if a sword has pierced her soul.
And on his return to the Temple he will be bringing judgement with him – Malachi was right about that. But it’s not Jesus who will do the judging. He is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” and we bring judgement on ourselves in our reaction to that light. As John says “the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light …” (John 3.19-20)
Jesus is still a controversial figure in our world today and we bring judgement on ourselves by the way we react to him and by the way we treat other people who, like us, are his brothers and sisters.
Jesus, who is the light of the world, calls us also to be lights for revelation to all people. He calls us to speak out against injustice, oppression, cruelty and corruption. He calls us to bring healing and peace to those who are sick and suffering hardships. He calls us to reach out to welcome those without homes, those seeking safety and refuge among us and those whose behaviour frightens and offends others.
We too may become controversial figures calling for radical changes in our society and the wider world and facing stiff opposition from those who prefer the darkness to the light.
We too may feel that a sword is piercing our souls but we will also know that our eyes have seen God’s salvation. Let us pray that that knowledge will bring us peace.
- The prophet Malachi foretells the coming of the Lord to his Temple but warns that he will bring judgement with him.
- Jesus is brought by his parents to the Temple to be presented to God and is recognised by Simeon as being the chosen one of God.
- Jesus, the light of the world, will return to the Temple and he will bring judgment with him.
- That judgment will be brought upon ourselves by the way we respond to Jesus calling us also to be lights for revelation of God’s love to all people.
Let us bring our prayers to God believing that in his merciful compassion he understands our needs and the needs of those for whom we pray.
We pray for the church of God: that she may be a light revealing to all peoples the way of salvation through Jesus Christ her Lord.
We pray for those in positions of authority: that they may seek to protect, support and minister to those who are weak and vulnerable in every society.
We pray for our communities: that we may bring God’s light into the lives of those who are fearful and over-burdened with cares and responsibilities.
We pray for all who feel tested beyond their endurance and those suffering distress of any kind: that God’s peace may calm them and strengthen them for whatever the future holds.
Loving Lord, we offer these prayers trusting in your love and compassionate understanding of us and those for whom we have prayed. And we offer ourselves to you that you may show us how we may play our part in revealing the light of your salvation in the world around us. Amen.