Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 42, 43 (morning) // 48, 87 (evening)
1 Samuel 2:1-10
If God’s people were supposed to remember anything about their past, it was this: that the Lord had delivered them out of slavery in Egypt. Traditions such as celebrating the Passover existed to remind people of the Lord’s liberating intervention in their lives through that incredible event called the Exodus. In fact, today we commemorate one of the customs that reminded people of their history as a people enslaved and then freed.
According to Jewish law, all Israelite parents had to dedicate their firstborn sons to God by bringing them to the temple. This act of offering their firstborn sons helped call to mind how the Lord spared all the firstborn sons of the Israelites as they prepared to flee Egypt. Today, we celebrate Mary and Joseph presenting their firstborn son, Jesus, in the temple according to this law.
How striking, then, that the people in this morning’s gospel seem to have no memory of their enslavement or deliverance. When Jesus tells them that the truth will make them free, they reply, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”
Is it really possible that Jewish people in the time of this gospel believed they had never been slaves to anyone? Perhaps worse than their selective amnesia about their history is their ignorance of their present circumstances. Occupied by Rome and enslaved to sin, these people don’t recognize their semblance of “freedom” as an illusion.
Twenty-first century Americans also have selective amnesia and ignorance about slavery in our history and its impact today. Further, we often settle for illusions of freedom rather than the goods that lead to true abundance, health, and safety. But today is a day for us to remember God’s continual acts of liberation in the lives of his people.
When Mary presented her son at the temple, she must have remembered God’s saving act of deliverance out of slavery many generations ago. What she didn’t know was that God had just started to act for freedom again in the life of her newborn son. But today we do know, and today we remember.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.