Green Room

Sunday reflection: Luke 2:22-40

posted at 10:01 am on February 2, 2014 by

“Sunday Reflection” is a regular Green Room feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection only represents my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion.

Today’s gospel reading is Luke 2:22-40:

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 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 Spirit into the temple; and when the parents 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 sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted —and you yourself a sword will pierce— so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Once again, we have a prophetic cycle, starting with our Old Testament reading of Malachi 3:4-1, which predicted that “the Lord you seek” would “come to the temple.” The reading of Malachi promised that the Lord’s anointed would “purify the sons of Levi,” who were the priestly caste of Israel, “refining them like gold or like silver so that they may offer due sacrifice to the Lord,” restoring Israel’s relationship with God “as in years gone by.”

We have seen similar prophetic cycles the last two weeks, both dealing with the plan for salvation. In last week’s readings, Isaiah prophesies that the “degraded” paths of Zebulon and Naphthali will bring salvation, and Jesus begins his ministry there on the Sea of Galilee. Two weeks ago, Isaiah speaks of Israel becoming “a great light to the nations,” and Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Gospel according to John. In Matthew’s narrative (3:14), John states that he feels that Jesus should baptize him rather than the other way around. Jesus says in response, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Here we have “all righteousness” fulfilled again, except in this case it is being fulfilled by Mary and Joseph. Mary might have wondered whether Jesus, as the Son of God, would need to be consecrated in the temple as were all first-born sons in Israel. After all, Jesus was already consecrated at His conception by His conception of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist, who only knew Jesus as the Messiah upon his arrival at the Jordan, knew enough about Jesus’ nature to question the need for His baptism at all.

This consecration and Jesus’ baptism both fulfill all righteousness, but they do more than that; the rituals make Jesus a part of the shared human experience in worshiping and serving God. Had God so chosen, He could have manifested himself on Earth in all his glory, forcing us as slaves to worship without the bother of the Incarnation. But God does not present us with salvation to enslave us; salvation comes as a gift to make us more human, as God intended humanity to be before its fallen state, a salvation which frees rather than enslaves us. Jesus lives a fully human life to lead us to that end through worship and sacrifice.  Thus, in both these readings and in those from two weeks ago, the Christ condescends to full humanity as well as full divinity. Only in this way can Jesus redeem the priesthood, refine it like gold or silver, in order to offer God His “due sacrifice”–which Jesus would redefine at the Last Supper.

The New Testament reading today, Hebrews 2:14-18, distills this and explicitly links Jesus to the redeemed priesthood:

Since the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. Surely he did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham; therefore, 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.

These passages do more than just link Jesus to the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament, though. The purpose of this cycle of salvation is formation. Malachi prophesies that the sacrifices of the priests will be made worthy through the Messiah, and Jesus takes great care to have fulfilled all the requirements of a priest of Israel throughout his life (even later studying in the Temple while his parents frantically search for him).

These are not empty gestures. They speak to the importance of worship and sacrifice by all humanity in their service of God, and also to the purpose of worship. Jesus spends three or more years ministering to people and spreading the word to “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Repent meant not just to offer atonement for sins committed but to change, to form ourselves to refuse the temptation of sin altogether.

As sharers in the priesthood, we are the silver and gold which Jesus came to refine. That starts with committing to attendance at church and prayer, both of which form us toward God and salvation just as Jesus demonstrated with his adherence to the temple rites and baptism. We owe God our worship, but it’s not for mere flattery or obsequiousness. It’s to remind ourselves of our mission in life: to serve Him and prepare ourselves and others to live in His divine presence through eternity, and to change ourselves – repent — to meet that mission through His grace.

Update: Removed reference to Paul as author of Hebrews (see my comment below).

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Thanks Ed. Great to see this feature…

OmahaConservative on February 2, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Ed? Are you Hotair’s local Minister now?

SauerKraut537 on February 2, 2014 at 10:48 AM

thanks Ed, after a while politics just gets boring.

phatfawzi on February 2, 2014 at 11:26 AM

thanks Ed :)

CoffeeLover on February 2, 2014 at 11:51 AM

I love this feature – thanks Ed

gophergirl on February 2, 2014 at 11:55 AM

I think you could write better homilies then most clergy.Well done Ed.

celtic warrior on February 2, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Beautiful!

Cindy Munford on February 2, 2014 at 1:11 PM

This post made me finally log in and post. Please more of this, and I’m not even Catholic.

PhillyCon on February 2, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Here’s one analysis:

The story seems straightforward enough at first. Simeon, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declares that he’s finally seen the Christ. But then he says that Jesus is, “your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”
All peoples? Gentiles? His parents knew he was the Christ, but not like this. The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him.
Then Simeon really takes it up a peg and says, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted —and you yourself a sword will pierce— so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Wow. Every time Mary turns around, she gets another warning. And notice that Simeon blessed them, and then added this note just for Mary. Blessings in the Bible seem a lot weightier than ones we normally hear. By comparison, modern blessings almost feel phony.

Pythagoras on February 2, 2014 at 1:30 PM

Nice.

Sacramento on February 2, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Pythagoras on February 2, 2014 at 1:30 PM

Great points. The fact that blessings carry so much weight tells us that our reward for steadfast faith will not be in this life, but in our eternal life with God.

Is there a link to the rest?

Ed Morrissey on February 2, 2014 at 1:47 PM

Thank you, Ed.

Mason on February 2, 2014 at 1:47 PM

Ed? Are you Hotair’s local Minister now? SauerKraut537 on February 2, 2014 at 10:48 AM

He belongs to the priesthood of all believers, 1 St. Peter 2:9.

Akzed on February 2, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Since theologically we are the same, (except for that whole fealty to Rome thing) that was the reading in the Eastern Orthodox Church this morning, I like it, keep it up. As an aside, did you happen to see this story…
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_REL_MASS_MOBS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2014-02-01-14-03-18

deimos on February 2, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Great points. The fact that blessings carry so much weight tells us that our reward for steadfast faith will not be in this life, but in our eternal life with God.

Is there a link to the rest?

I’m thrilled that you like it; it’s from my own blog. I’d rather not link that publically but if you shoot me an email, I’ll send it to you.

Pythagoras on February 2, 2014 at 5:12 PM

Ed? Are you Hotair’s local Minister now?

SauerKraut537 on February 2, 2014 at 10:48 AM

Ed runs the joint, and can post what he will.

We could, of course, come to your highly regarded, widely quoted conservative blog, and get your views, uncolored by any religious cast.

Oops – you don’t have one?

massrighty on February 2, 2014 at 7:27 PM

Ed? Are you Hotair’s local Minister now?

SauerKraut537 on February 2, 2014 at 10:48 AM

.
Ever since Michelle left, yeah.

listens2glenn on February 2, 2014 at 7:44 PM

Thank you, Ed and Pythagoras.

Elisa on February 2, 2014 at 9:20 PM

Thank you much Ed. Just a quick question out of curiosity to anyone who would know: Is it the opinion of Rome that Paul wrote Hebrews? Among Evangelicals this is an unsettled question. Not that it undermines the authority of the text, but it’s an interesting historical debate.

xuyee on February 2, 2014 at 10:03 PM

xuyee on February 2, 2014 at 10:03 PM

I must confess to a little laziness here in checking references. The authorship of Hebrews is unknown; I don’t think the Catholic Church has a position on it. My NAB (a Catholic approved version) says that the authorship of Hebrews is “pure speculation.”

I’m going to edit that passage to remove the reference.

Ed Morrissey on February 2, 2014 at 10:56 PM

Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Christo, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Veritas……….

crosshugger on February 2, 2014 at 11:05 PM

Thank you, Ed.

unclesmrgol on February 3, 2014 at 1:27 AM

Perhaps a few verses from the Vedas

DarkCurrent on February 3, 2014 at 2:39 AM

Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Christo, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Veritas………. crosshugger on February 2, 2014 at 11:05 PM

how can there be more than one sola?

Akzed on February 3, 2014 at 8:23 AM

how can there be more than one sola?

Akzed on February 3, 2014 at 8:23 AM

Different solas for different things. Justification is by faith alone, salvation is by grace alone, etc.

Pythagoras on February 3, 2014 at 9:04 AM

JOKE:

A husband got up every morning before his wife, but waited for her to wake up and make the coffee.

Finally the wife said, “why don’t you make the coffee?”

He said, “because you’re the woman and should make it.”

She said not only is that not right, but that actually “the Bible says the husband should make the coffee.”

He asked where it said that.

She opened the Bible and pointed to it – “He brews.”

Elisa on February 3, 2014 at 10:59 AM

As Ed mentioned, the Catholic Church (East & West) and, I think, all the Eastern Orthodox Churches (correct me if I’m wrong about the Orthodox), do not know for sure who wrote Hebrews, but they do not entirely rule out it might be St. Paul.

Short answer: Traditionally in the early centuries of the Church, Hebrews was always together with St. Paul’s letters and many thought he wrote Hebrews. However, the writing style in Hebrews was different, so others thought Paul didn’t write it. Today, we don’t know for sure either way.

Detailed answer:

I wrote about this once and kept it in my Word file. Maybe some here might find it interesting. I’ve edited it to post here.

First I want to be clear that, as a Catholic, I believe that the formation of the Bible (writing, safeguarding texts and selecting what books belong in the Bible) comes from the Holy Spirit and everything in the Bible is the Sacred Word of God and can be relied upon. Sacred Scripture sprang from Sacred Tradition (first Jewish oral Sacred Tradition and then, beginning with the Apostles, Christian oral Sacred Tradition.) The Holy Spirit guided the process and used fallible men in the Church to give us His infallible Holy Word.

From the later 4th century till 419AD there were several Church councils that discussed what was Scriptural and what wasn’t. There were many Christian writings being circulated and the Church wanted the faithful to know what was the true Word of God and what was heretical. St. Jerome was commissioned to come up with lists and to translate the books into Latin, since the majority of the Western Empire now spoke this instead of Greek. Other Bishops also presented lists.

The vast majority of the bishops from the councils from 382AD, 393AD and 397AD all agreed on a sole canon of the Old and New Testaments. The last council in 419AD had over 200 Bishops (East and West) who voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm that list of books.

The official list of Old Testament and New Testament books from this last council in 419AD were the only books allowed to be read at Christian Masses after that time.

There were no changes for over 1,000 years until Luther took out 7 Old Testament books from the Septuagint (Baruch, Sirach,1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith and the Wisdom of Solomon, plus portions of Esther and Daniel) and took out 4 New Testament books (James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelation.) He put these books in an appendix in the back of the Bible with commentary. Around 100 years later the Lutherans put back the 4 New Testament books into the main canon.

Today all Christians have the same New Testament that was decided by 419AD.

During the 4th century Church councils, some things were rejected by everyone from the start, like the stupid Gnostic “gospels.” Some things were universally accepted as Scriptural from the mid 2nd century on (the 4 Gospels, Act and Paul’s letters).

But they also had a deuterocanon, a list of “maybe” books that were discussed by the Bishops. These books were widely accepted as scriptural, but not universally. Some areas did not believe they were Sacred writings. This list included Hebrew, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Revelation, the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, Clement’s 1st letter to the Corinthians and the Shepherd of Hermes. All good and beautiful Christian writings, not heretical, from the late 1st century to early 2nd. The Bishops, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, decided to keep some of the books and not others.

There was serious doubt as to who wrote Hebrews. (even today we don’t know for sure who wrote it.) The majority of Bishops (East and West) inspired by the Holy Spirit decided that they believed Hebrews was indeed either from Paul or one of his disciples and belonged in the Bible. And that the Epistle of Barnabas would be cherished, but not be in the Bible as the Word of God. If they had decided differently, then we would pick up our Bibles and after Paul’s letter to Philemon would be James or we would find the letter of Barnabas, and Hebrews would be no where in the Bible. Or we would have both books or neither one. Or we wouldn’t have Revelation, etc.

So, inspired by the Holy Spirit: fallible men wrote infallible scriptures, fallible men infallibly recognized God’s Word, picked, kept, cherished, hid, copied and passed on these infallible scriptures and fallible men came up with the infallible canon of Scriptural books. The Holy Spirit working through the men in the Church to give us Sacred Scriptures. Just like the Old Testament sprang from Jewish Sacred Tradition, of the Holy Spirit. Same with the New Testament and Christian Sacred Tradition.

Note: 2 of Paul’s letters were lost early on. This was allowed by the Holy Spirit for a reason and we don’t have these books today in our Bibles.

Also discussed at the councils were 3 Gospel passages that many did not believe were Scriptural. They were in some manuscripts, but not others. Some thought, as possible later additions, they were not part of the Gospels. The Bishops decided, again through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that these were Scriptural. These were John 7:53 to 8:11, Luke 22:43-44 and Mark 16:9-20.

If they had decided differently, the Bibles we hold in our hands today would be different. How would it feel to pick up our Bibles and not find the story of the woman caught in adultery that they wanted to stone, and Jesus’ words saying He would not condemn her and to “go and sin no more?” Or reading about the Agony in the Garden and not finding that He suffered so much that “His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Or Mark’s Gospel ending earlier?

God bless you all. Have a good day.

Elisa on February 3, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Different solas for different things. Justification is by faith alone, salvation is by grace alone, etc. Pythagoras on February 3, 2014 at 9:04 AM

Why is this list an appropriate response to a devotional on Presentation Day?

Akzed on February 3, 2014 at 1:46 PM

Sometimes the icebreaker at a party is, “If you could be …?”

If that question was asked regarding Scriptural personalities I would say either Simeon who held the Lamb of God or one of the two on the road to Emmaus.

Would that we would live close enough to god that He would reveal secrets to us (as He said would in a couple of places in the bible)like he did to Simeon and that He would open the mysteries of His word like He did on the road to Emmaus.

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. – Jude 24-25

(Without fault! Amazing grace.)

davidk on February 3, 2014 at 1:55 PM

Why is this list an appropriate response to a devotional on Presentation Day?

Akzed on February 3, 2014 at 1:46 PM

Actually, I don’t think it is; on that we agree. It might have even been intended to be hostile, but I thought it better to just ignore it.

I was just replying to your specific question.

Pythagoras on February 3, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Again, Ed puts up a nice devotional and you put up a Protestant list non sequitur. Then you say that what you did was inappropriate, might have been hostile, and is better ignored. I may be confused.

Anyhow,

Different solas for different things. Justification is by faith alone, salvation is by grace alone, etc. Pythagoras on February 3, 2014 at 9:04 AM

What’s the difference between justification and salvation? What I mean is, if justification is by faith alone, then jsutification is a completely different category than salvation, because salvation has a different unique basis.

So, can one be saved without being justified? Because if not, then salvation is not by grace alone, but also by faith alone, which seems not to make sense.

Akzed on February 3, 2014 at 2:40 PM

Akzed on February 3, 2014 at 2:40 PM

To quote Bart Simpson — “Wasn’t me.”

Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Christo, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Veritas……….

crosshugger on February 2, 2014 at 11:05 PM

Pythagoras on February 3, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Elisa on February 3, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Thanks for the in-depth lesson. I am certain, as are most Bible scholars, that Mark 16:9-20 is not canonical. Not for the content, which is certainly somewhat extreme in parts, but based on critical examination.

I haven’t considered the other two passages you cite.

If I find myself in a discussion regarding the authorship of Hebrews, I like to stir up the pot a bit and say I think it was Priscilla. (I really have no idea.) But I tell them the reason it stayed anonymous with a undercurrent of its being Paul’s work is that if people knew it was written by a woman it possibly would not be accepted.

That would be interesting in that it shows that the leadership at least accepted women on par with men; whereas, the culture at large did not. Plus it gives sense, too, that the early church leaders saw it as Divinely inspired.

But, again, we do not know.

One point I would like to make is that the Bishops discovered/recognized the various writings as inspired (God-breathed) rather than simply stating this and that isn’t on any kind of personal or corporate choice. Many want to attack the bible on those grounds.

The books of the Bible did not become the Word of God because they were chosen (as the neo-orthodox might say), they were chosen because they were Divinely Inspired.

Further, my thinking is that believing that the Bible is the Word of God is a presupposition based on the empirical truths contained. Because the Bible is without error in the things that we can confirm (which is a large part of the Bible) it is reasonable to accept the metaphysical things as true and trustworthy.

Most people who mock the Bible do so with a anti-metaphysical presupposition. Nothing is true unless it can be empirically verified/proven. But that position is self-defeating because the statement “Nothing is true unless it can be empirically verified/proven.” cannot be empirically verified/proven.

davidk on February 3, 2014 at 2:57 PM

Pythagoras on February 3, 2014 at 2:54 PM

To quote his dad: “Doh!”

Akzed on February 3, 2014 at 5:25 PM

Thanks, Ed… from one “Bitter Clinger” to another.

VastRightWingConspirator on February 3, 2014 at 7:08 PM

I am certain, as are most Bible scholars, that Mark 16:9-20 is not canonical. Not for the content, which is certainly somewhat extreme in parts, but based on critical examination.
davidk on February 3, 2014 at 2:57 PM

On the off chance you may still be reading here, thank you for your response.

I will tell you what I think and believe.

It’s not up to me alone to decide if it’s canonical or not. I trust that the Holy Spirit works through the Sacred Tradition of the Church, using men in the Church. That S.T. (formally proclaimed Christian truths revealed or explained more fully by the Holy Spirit) tells me that every bit of the Bible is the inerrant God-breathed Word of God. I believe it is the Word of God on faith. Not just because my mind tells me (which it does) or I “feel” or “sense” it (which I do) or because of all the many times His Word has helped me and enlightened me (which it has.) More deeply than any of that, is that I believe on faith, which is a gift, and I trust in that faith.

So, I do believe that those 3 Gospel passages are canonical, including the end of Mark. Even if it was a later addition or written by someone other than Mark. That would just be a timing difference between when the passages were written. And God could use 2 (or more) fallible men to write His inerrant Words contained in the one book of St. Mark.

Besides, I like that ending. lol

One point I would like to make is that the Bishops discovered/recognized the various writings as inspired (God-breathed) rather than simply stating this and that isn’t on any kind of personal or corporate choice. Many want to attack the bible on those grounds.

The books of the Bible did not become the Word of God because they were chosen (as the neo-orthodox might say), they were chosen because they were Divinely Inspired.

I understand what you are saying and I agree that others could misconstrue my points about Bible formation. But my point is that it doesn’t matter how the Bible was written or by who or how or when it was decided which books were canonical, when the Holy Spirit revealed the details to mankind and had them formally recognize His Word.

As long as it rested firmly in the bosom of the Church’s Sacred Tradition, it all came from God.

As long as the Sacred Tradition of the Church, which passed His oral and written Word down from the time of the Apostles to the Bishops in the 4th century to us today, formally tells us that it is the Word of God, I have faith it is canonical. I believe the Holy Spirit used the fallible Apostles and all the fallible men hand-picked by the Apostles to continue the chain through today’s fallible men. All to give us His inerrant written Word (Sacred Scripture) and infallible oral Word (Sacred Tradition.)

I believe God used those 4th century Bishops and inspired them to make the official decisions they did, which gave us the final list of books in our Old and New Testaments.

I agree that no man can make something be the Word of God if it isn’t. I agree that the Bishops were recognizing that it was the Word of God more than declaring it to be so. But they did declare it to be so and that also came from God. I don’t want to minimize their role in all of this, because they were the vehicle used by God. Just like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, Jude and James were vehicles used by God. (and Moses and the Prophets)

Further, my thinking is that believing that the Bible is the Word of God is a presupposition based on the empirical truths contained. Because the Bible is without error in the things that we can confirm (which is a large part of the Bible) it is reasonable to accept the metaphysical things as true and trustworthy.

Most people who mock the Bible do so with a anti-metaphysical presupposition. Nothing is true unless it can be empirically verified/proven. But that position is self-defeating because the statement “Nothing is true unless it can be empirically verified/proven.” cannot be empirically verified/proven.

I agree. I would only add my belief: my thinking is that believing that the Bible is the Word of God is a presupposition based on the empirical truths contained within the Bible and within Sacred Tradition.

God bless you and all here.

Elisa on February 4, 2014 at 11:43 PM