On the fifth day of the Christmas Octave that falls on December 29 we are made to consider the law of the time then which was about the duty to present to the Lord the first-born male for his consecration. (cfr. Lk 2,22-35)
Obviously, the child Jesus could be exempted from this law, and we can suppose that both Mary and Joseph would know this. Still, they proceeded to follow the law, giving us the precious lesson that like them, we should try to behave like any ordinary person, following the just laws and customs of the time and place, and choosing to forgo certain privileges that we may have. That’s humility in action.
That’s how we should behave. We may be quite privileged in life because of the many gifts and other endowments God and others may have given us, but we should never feel entitled to anything. Instead, our attitude toward these privileges should be one of willingness to serve more, doing a lot of good while passing unnoticed, and all for the glory of God and for the good of all.
We should sharpen our desire to serve and not be served, always following the example of Christ who said, “The Son of man has not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20,28)
Let’s remember that to serve is the language and the action of love. It authenticates any affirmation of love that we make, converting it from intention to tangible reality.
This is the attitude meant for us, with God himself as the exemplar. Imagine, Christ served us by dying on the cross. Before that, he shocked his apostles when he insisted that he be allowed to wash their feet. That was to give example to them, and us, so that what he did we would also do.
The angels too, superior to us in nature, are made to serve us, following a divine law articulated by Christ himself when he said: “Let him who is greatest among you become as the youngest, and him who is the chief as the servant.” (Lk 22,26)
Another lesson we can learn from the feast of the presentation of the Lord is that like Christ we should be ready to be a “a sign of contradiction.” We may ask, why should Christ and all Christians who try to be faithful be a ‘sign of contradiction’? There can be many answers. But we can already gather a lot of ideas simply by taking note of what Christ himself taught and did.
In the first place, in the gospel of St. John, we are already given a description of the intriguing figure of Christ: “He was in the world that had come into being through him, and the world did not recognize him. He came to his own and his own people did not accept him.” (Jn 1,10-11)
From there we can already get the idea that Christ is someone who will go through contradictions of sorts. And his teachings would bear that out also. Consider some words of his:
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Mt 20,16)
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Mt 16,25)
We just have to realize that this whole business of being a “sign of contradiction” is part of the unavoidable tension that exists between the natural and the supernatural aspects of our life, the material and spiritual, the temporal and eternal, etc.*