January 6, 2016

Nativity: January 6, 2016


When eight days were completed for his circumcision” (Luke 2:21)

The story of the Nativity soon shifts from the intimacy of the cave to the rich customs of Israel as Joseph and Mary embrace the eighth day since Jesus’ birth. “Jewish parents customarily name their male children on the day of their circumcision, the eighth day after birth (Luke 2:21). These were events of great importance, signaling the beginning of the child's covenant membership in Israel (Genesis 17:9-14; Leviticus 12:3).” [26] Thus, “when eight days were completed” Joseph and Mary move to have their son circumcised. (Luke 2:21) The Holy Father writes: “In the Book of Leviticus it is laid down … that the boy is to be circumcised on the eighth day … The eighth day is the day of circumcision, when Jesus is formally taken up into the community of the promises extending back to Abraham: now he is legally a member of the people of Israel. Paul speaks of this event when he writes to the Galatians: ‘But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons’ (4: 4f.).” [27]

If we are going to get to know Jesus, care must be taken not to project onto Jesus who we think Him to be or who we want Him to be. We must let Jesus reveal who He is to us. We must let the Scriptures reveal who He is to us. Joseph was Jewish. Mary was Jewish. Jesus was Jewish. The color of their hair, the complexion of their skin, their thick Yiddish accent was all very Jewish. Their customs, their culture, and their traditions were all very Jewish. Their understanding of God, their longing for the Messiah, and their view of religion were all very Jewish. They understood covenant. They understood traditions. They understood they were a part of a larger community.

You and I live in country founded on independence. We declared it on July 4, 1776 and we have embraced it fully ever since. However, there is wisdom in knowing your shadow, for the shadow side of your greatest strength is usually your greatest weakness. The shadow side to our spirit of independence is a thinking that we are independent. There is a whisper in our American philosophy: “You can do it. If you work hard enough, you can do it. You can do it … alone.” Independent leads to individualism and individualism leads to isolation. Thus, it shouldn’t surprise us that we feel more isolated because we live more isolated. The subtle seduction of independent and individualism breeds the American trap of “me and Jesus”: “I don’t need anyone else … it’s all about me and Jesus.” However, that’s not Jesus, that’s America … and, yes, there is a distinction. “When eight days were completed” Joseph and Mary purposely chose to initiate Jesus into the Chosen People, into their community. His circumcision is not merely a random detail. It is an intentionally embraced sign that Jesus was a part of a community. Mary needed community. Joseph needed community. You and I need community.

We cannot live isolated; you cannot live isolated. We need community. We need brothers and sisters on the journey so that we can be held accountable and share our struggle. We need the Church so that we can be fed with the Her Teachings and Her Sacraments. As you continue with your New Year’s resolutions it is important that those resolutions further your resolve to get to know Jesus. Who is helping you? Who is supporting you? Who is walking with you? 2013 is the year to get back to Mass on Sunday. 2013 is the year to consider daily Mass. 2013 is the year to learn more about your Catholic faith. 2013 is the year to get into a Bible study with five or six of your closest friends. 2013 is the year where you identify one person to hold you accountable to your most repetitive sin. Jesus was initiated into a community. Jesus was a part of a community. Now is the time, this is the year … how is Jesus calling you to grow in community?

For your prayer

The Psalms are the sacred music of a chosen people. The Psalms were written as songs to praise God. Imagine how Mary would have prayed Psalm 105. Begin by slowly reading the whole of Psalm 105. Then read Psalm 105: 1-11. Read it a few times. Imagine Joseph and Mary singing this Psalm as traveled to have Jesus circumcised. Now, prayerfully imagine the scene in Luke 2:21. Be in the scene. Be with Joseph. Be with Mary. Be with them as they seek out the local synagogue. Be with them as they hand Jesus to the Rabbi. Imagine their delight as Jesus becomes a member of their community. 

Today's prayer

“Father, I want to know you. I want a relationship with you. Teach me how to pray. Teach me how to live. Teach me how to be in relationship with you.”

[26] Scott Hahn, Curtis Mitch, and Dennis Walters, The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, page 111 (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 527)
[27] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, page 81& 80

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© Fr. Mark Toups, 2012. Expressed written permission required for duplication.