January 9, 2016

Nativity: January 9, 2016


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they took him 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’”
(Luke 2:22-23)

Joseph and Mary traveled to Jerusalem to “offer the sacrifice” called forth in the Book of Leviticus. Their pilgrimage to the great Temple will also require them “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’”. (Luke 2:22-23) The event in the Temple “begins by specifically quoting the law regarding the consecration of the first-born: ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’ (2: 23; cf. Exodus 13: 2; 13: 12f., 15).” Jesus “was personally handed over to God in the Temple, given over completely to God. The verb parist├ínai, here translated as ‘to present,’ also means ‘to offer,’ in the way that sacrifices in the Temple were ‘offered.’ The language of sacrificial offering and priesthood is evoked here. Luke has nothing to say regarding the act of ‘redemption’ prescribed by the law. In its place we find the exact opposite: the child is handed over to God, and from now on belongs to him completely.” [34]

When Joseph and Mary present Jesus in the Temple it is more than a mere liturgical ritual. The Holy Father told us Jesus “was personally handed over to God in the Temple, given over completely to God.” He said, Jesus “from now on belongs to him completely.” Joseph and Mary offer back to God the gift that was entrusted to them. In doing so they acknowledge that Jesus belongs to the Father. They will care for Jesus. They will love him. They will raise him in Nazareth. However, they will do so knowing that he belongs to the Father. Imagine the interior freedom Mary must have had to so. The child is conceived in her womb. She bonds intimately with him for nine months as her body nourishes his growth. Immediately following his birth she holds him on her chest as only a mother can. Yet, in the Temple she consecrates him to the Father and her son “from now on belongs to him completely.” Imagine the interior freedom Mary must have had to surrender her son.

Mary knew freedom, real freedom. Pope Benedict XVI prays: “Let us carry in us Mary’s same sentiments of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, her faith and her hope, her docile abandonment into the hands of divine providence.” [35] Mary’s freedom is seen in her “docile abandonment into the hands of” God. The Holy Father continues: “This is true freedom: actually to be able to follow our desire for good, for true joy, for communion with God and to be free from the oppression of circumstances that pull us in other directions.” [36] “Authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ's very being for others.” [37]

Real freedom is “docile abandonment”. Real freedom is “an opting in”. Real freedom is “communion with God”. The world we live in defines freedom as the option to do whatever you want. However, real freedom is being able to rest in what you really want: peace, joy, rest … God. Mary shows us this in the Temple. She shows us real freedom comes from about abandoning ourselves into God. Therefore, why would we discuss “center” or “led” or “rescue” or “security” during this Christmas journey? We pray into these issues so that we can be free, really free.

What would your life look like if you were free? What would your life look like if you were free from fear? What would your life look like if you were free from anxiety? What would your life look like if you were free from pressure and stress? Is that possible? Can you be really free? You already have the “freedom” to do “whatever you want”. Does that really bring you freedom? Does the world and its “freedom” really make you happy?

Merry Christmas. Mary reminds us all what real freedom looks like and where freedom comes from. Christ brings freedom. Christmas brings freedom. Freedom comes when we surrender our lives to a person: Jesus. Freedom comes when we are led by a person: Jesus. Freedom comes when we live in communion with a person: Jesus. Merry Christmas. Christ wants to give you freedom. Do you want to be free? What do you want? What do you really want?

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 and Joseph would have sung the Psalms as they prayed in the Temple. Begin by slowly reading Psalm 107. Now, prayerfully imagine the scene in Luke 2:22-23. Be in the scene. Be with Mary. Be with her as she enters the great Temple. Be with her as she gives her son to the priest in the Temple. Notice her freedom. Ask her today how you can be free.

Today's prayer


“Jesus, I want a relationship with you. Teach me how to be in relationship with you and how to stay in relationship with you. Teach what I need to be free from so that I can be free to stay in relationship with you.”

[34] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pg. 82
[35] Pope Benedict XVI, Address, Marking the Conclusion of May, St. Peter's Square, June 2, 2008
[36] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, St. Peter's Square, May 16, 2012
[37] Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Benedict in America: The Full Texts of Papal Talks Given During His Apostolic Visit to the United States, pg. 129

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