Archbishop’s Teaching

1st Sunday after Christmas Presentation of Jesus in the Temple Lk 2:22-24

1st Sunday after Christmas
Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
Lk 2:22-24

Homily of His Excellency Msgr Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

After the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph take the child to the temple to
present him to the Lord according to the Law of the Lord... The prescribed
offering is a one-year-old lamb, but if the woman cannot afford it, she will
offer only two turtledoves or two young pigeons. So Mary and Joseph
submit to the law, humbly, poor among the poor. They belong to the
humble of Israel, among the faithful who seek and serve God.
But their piety goes beyond ritual. They even fulfill what is not prescribed:
they present the newborn in person. It is Jesus himself who is offered in
the temple, the holy and solemn place par excellence of the presence of
God among his people.
The novelty of this presentation is that Mary presents to the Temple of
stones the true Temple of God, His only Son. God offers Himself to God;
He who is present to His Father from all eternity offers Himself as Son of
man before the Father of all men.
The offering of Jesus has a double significance. First, it fulfills the oracles
of the prophets of Israel, particularly those of the servant of God who
offers his life "as a victim of atonement" to redeem his people, and then,
it announces the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The presentation of Jesus
in the temple becomes a self-offering out of love for us and for our
salvation, as emphasized by the prophecy of the old man Simeon, which
follows his thanksgiving.
What does this feast say to us today? Above all, that we too are called to
welcome Jesus, who comes to meet us. Meet him: the Lord, our God,
meets us every day of our lives; not from time to time, but every day.
Following Jesus is not a decision taken once and for all; it is a daily
commitment by the grace of God who works in us if we freely open our
inner temple to him. And the Lord is not encountered virtually, but
directly, by meeting him in concrete life. Otherwise, Jesus becomes only
a beautiful memory of the past. When, on the contrary, we welcome him
as the Lord of our lives, the center of everything, the beating heart of all
things, then he lives and lives again in us.
Pope Francis reminds us that "with Jesus we find the courage to go
forward and the strength to remain strong". Encountering the Lord is the
source of our hope in the love of God and salvation for us all.
But it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the Lord, as he did with the old man
Simeon, but to welcome this Spirit and let him reveal Jesus to us as the
Son of God our Saviour, we need to be faithful in prayer every day, to
implore the grace to listen to the Word of God, to meditate on it, to
embody it through acts of love, forgiveness, patience, compassion
towards others, and with a heart available to become the living temple of
the Lord...
Like Simeon, who in his humble and ardent waiting let himself be guided
by the Holy Spirit to recognize Jesus as Savior, we too, at every Eucharist,
by the grace of the Spirit who reveals him to us, commune with the body
of Jesus offered to us to recognize him as Our Savior.
With Mary and Joseph, let us offer ourselves to Jesus, so that he may lead
us to his Father, and let our hearts always be this living temple where
Jesus wants to offer himself to dwell with his Father and the Holy Spirit.
On this day of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Lord, you reveal
to our world the Light of salvation. Give us the grace to let our hearts
become living temples to welcome you and offer you our lives through
the prayers of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph and all the saints who
have consecrated themselves to welcome you as Light and source of life.

† Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

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