A Reflection for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
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. (Lk 2:22-40)
Whenever I think of Jesus, I tend to think of him in one of three distinct ways: first, I think of him at his birth in Bethlehem. Second, I think of him during his earthly ministry, which takes up the vast majority of the Gospels. Third, I think of him post-Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, when he takes his place at the right hand of God the Father. Now, I think these are all well and good (and I’m sure some readers think the same). These images of Jesus are certainly prominent for a reason—they’re the most relevant to our understanding of our faith.
But let’s pause for a moment to consider Jesus, not as the savior born of the Virgin Mary to save mankind from sin, but simply as a human being. After all, part of our faith is our belief that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. Jesus was more than just a stoic and messiah, whose only focus was the goal of salvation. He was also a man, and before that, a boy—and that comes along with everything that it means to be a human, just without the added burden of sin.
As Luke points out in today’s reading, Jesus did not get any special treatment for being the son of God. He still had to be brought to Jerusalem with his parents for a presentation ceremony, so that he might be “consecrated to the Lord.” This was one of many coming-of-age events that happened to a Jewish boy in first-century Judea, and certainly not the last that Jesus would experience. Earlier in this chapter, Luke talks of Jesus’ circumcision; later, there is the infamous scene when the twelve-year-old Christ appears to go missing during Passover in Jerusalem, and his parents find him causing a fuss with the temple’s rabbis. Then, when Jesus started to become an adult, he would learn carpentry from Joseph, inheriting his father’s trade from him.
Jesus is there in all the moments in your life that these stories remind you of because he, like us, had to go through them.
It is very easy to forget that Jesus was fully human, and it can be difficult to imagine what he must have been like. But he too had to go through long, uncomfortable ceremonies. He too ignored his parents’ wishes and did what he wanted. He too had those small and intimate moments where he connected with his family and friends. Jesus was fully human in addition to being fully divine, and nowhere was that seen more prominently than during his childhood.
I would encourage everyone to read between the lines of these various chapters of Jesus’ childhood because they are incredibly human and very relatable, in ways that the epic scope of his adult life miracles and ministry cannot really be. He was just like you and me.
When he was consecrated at the temple, think back to your own baptism or the baptisms of family members. When he went missing in a big city and his parents scrambled to search for him, imagine the relief that Mary and Joseph must have felt when they finally found him (and what might have been some second-hand embarrassment from their child’s bold behavior). When Joseph was teaching his son how to be a carpenter, remember all the times that parental figures in your life taught you something valuable and passed down a part of themselves to you. Jesus experienced all of that and more. He’s there in all the moments in your life that these stories remind you of because he, like us, had to go through them.