The Presentation of the Lord

Dear Priscilla,

I can see the struggle going on in your soul as if it were happening right here on this computer screen.  It’s so obvious what’s really at stake, and yet, obvious things are often obscure for those who are in the thick of the struggle.  Look, let’s put it in the simplest terms possible.  You know in your heart that God is asking you for something, for an extra step of generosity.  And yet, on the other hand, you feel in your heart a strong reluctance to give that thing up.  Now, if you were giving advice to someone in your situation, what would you tell them?  Would you say that God could be wrong in asking you to give this up, or that he is doing it only because he is mean and wants to make you miserable?  I doubt it.  Why not take a lesson from today’s feast.

You remember, of course, that in ancient times Jewish women had to undergo a period of isolation and purification after giving birth.  At the conclusion of this period, the mother was required to make an offering to the Lord, and if her child happened to be a firstborn son, she was also required to give that child to the Lord (Yahweh had claimed all of Israel’s firstborn sons as his own ever since the first Passover, when he slew Egypt’s firstborn sons in order to free his people from slavery), and then offer a “ransom” in order to receive the child back again.  Mary conscientiously fulfilled these requirements six weeks after Jesus’ birth, and by celebrating Today’s feast the Church recalls Mary’s fidelity and the wonderful events surrounding the Presentation of Jesus (Simeon’s prophecy about Christ being a Light to the Gentiles – thus the ancient tradition of blessing candles on this day – and Anna’s prophecy…).

What does this have to do with your present quandary?  Everything.  What is more precious to a new mother than her first child?  Absolutely nothing.  She will give up everything for the good of that child, everything.  And yet, what does God ask Mary to do, to give up the CHILD HIMSELF!  To offer Jesus to the Lord, as if saying, “Lord, take this child whom you have given to me.  I loving nothing in the world more than him, but he is your gift, and belongs first to you.”  Mary’s obedience to this ancient law, therefore, reveals the attitude of her heart: she was willing to give God whatever he asked of her, even what was most precious.

And was she less happy for this generosity?  Was she less fulfilled?…  I’ll let you answer that, and I hope the answer gives you the strength you need to make your own “Presentation”, as God is clearly asking of you.

Your loving uncle,


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