It’s easy for us to forget that Jesus was raised in a devout Jewish family. Mary and Joseph faithfully observed all of the prescribed rituals and obligations of their Jewish faith. Forty days after the birth of Jesus, they made the long, exhausting journey to the Temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the prescription of the Jewish law that obligated them to present their son to the Lord. This law stated that “every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord”. As prescribed by this law, the holy parents presented the sacrificial offering of two turtledoves.
It is touching for us to see how conscientiously and how lovingly Mary and Joseph observed the Jewish faith traditions of their ancestors, even though these traditions demanded considerable inconvenience and sacrifice of them to make the arduous journey to Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph taught Jesus well, as he carried out these Jewish faith traditions throughout his adult life and ministry, interpreting these traditions in the light of his identity as the Son of God.
It is important for us to note that for the Holy Family and for Jesus, there is no tension, no contradiction, between their commitment to the prescribed Jewish rituals & their personal spirituality, their personal relationship with God. As integral members of the Jewish faith community, the faith of Mary and Joseph was grounded in the ritual traditions of the Jewish people, rituals that sustained the community for generations. These same rituals sustained the Holy Family and passed on their Jewish faith to Jesus. As Jesus grew up with Mary and Joseph, he had intimate contact with the Lord.
In our society, people often see a tension between being religious in a ritualistic sense and being spiritual, in devoting ourselves to the pious practices of our faith and obeying the laws of God requiring us to practice social justice and to reach out to our neighbor, especially the poor & the oppressed. May we follow the example of the Holy Family that we celebrate today on the feast of the presentation of the Lord, may we have a balance faith that follows all of God’s laws and commandments.