Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Lectionary: 524


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.

Historically, the first mention of Mary in the New Testament occurs in Galatians 4: 
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.
The note about the Blessed Mother serves Saint Paul's greater purpose, to remind us of Jesus' human birth and his obedience "under the law."
Today's feast also recalls that great mystery. Our collect emphasizes it, recalling that Jesus "was presented on this day in the temple, in the substance of our flesh...." 
To be human is to belong to, and to be subject to, other human beings. Not only was Jesus subject to the law, he welcomed the authority of others, especially of Mary and Joseph.
Unlike the rest of us, he would not demand an exemption from that universal principle. He would not be the One who is subject to no one. 
How many tyrants have we seen in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries who thought they were above the law? And worse, were given that privilege by their obsequious supporters? Even Americans, citizens of the world's first and most important democracy, toy with the idea of fascism, of giving one man complete freedom to govern by whim. His people would rule while minorities suffer.
In my conversation with Veterans in rehab for "substance abuse," we discuss the meaning of freedom. Some people suppose it's a "right," as if there is some eternal place in the clouds where rights are decreed and defined. I challenge the Veterans to abandon that fantasy world and live in the real world where we give one another limited but real freedom. 
No one can do anything he or she wants. If we have any courage we'll never permit that. Either we'll prevent them from doing it, or simply refuse to help. We teach our young people the limits of their freedom and the consequences if they violate those limits. Many of the Veterans I speak with have suffered the penalty for abusing their freedoms.


I sometimes ask, "Is the only freedom that which we find in solitude?" Not really. There are consequences to my solitary behavior also. (That's why we pray in solitude!) If there is a "right to be let alone" it is a dictum of the American Supreme Court, not divine law. 
Legalists struggle to clarify rights, protecting them with an iron cage of definitions. But rights are like the imaginary spheres constructed by medieval astronomers to explain how the sun, moon and stars moved across the sky. Newly created rights seem to appear in our legal firmament every other week.
If we're not willing to give one another space to breathe, live and love, with opportunities for creativity, compassion and courage, a bill of rights will mean nothing. We should only remember how readily the Italians and Germans discarded their democracies (and rights) when Mussolini and Hitler rose to power. We also remember that when they exchanged freedom for security, they lost both.

The only security we can enjoy is that we give to one another, especially to the minorities among us. If we fail to honor the dignity of every person, born and unborn, each one disabled in some fashion, with differing sensibilities, traditions, traumas and genius, we will wrap ourselves in iron cages for security, and call it peace

Jesus was sent by the Father into our complex, claustrophobic society to create a community of freedom. "For freedom Christ set you free!" Saint Paul declared. In that place the integrity, beauty and worth of every individual shines for the benefit of everyone else. That is the light Simeon celebrated as he danced in the Temple, 
...for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel."

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.