5th Sunday before Lent / 3.02.18 as Presentation [by Dr. Joachim Feldes]

5th Sunday before Lent:
3rd Feb. as Presentation
1st Reading
Ez 43.27-44.4
Mal 3.1-5
2nd Reading
1 Cor 13
Heb 2.14-end
Luke 2.22-40
by Dr. Joachim Feldes, Schauernheim, Germany

Exegetical Observations

Ez 43f: Although the text is all about cultic regulations and exceptions, these are rules that demand respect. Not everyone is permitted to do everything, to take any liberty. There are certain places that are set apart by God, ultimately reserved for himself, that humans may not enter at will or lay claim to. These are holy places that must be protected and maintained to ensure that the good order, good for people and for creation, remains intact.

Mal 3: The one whom we seek is coming, and is sending messengers to prepare the way for him. Although long desired, his coming is unexpected when it happens, and he encounters some people who are prepared for it and others who have grown weary with waiting, and who have turned aside from the promise. But the fact is that he will establish a new relationship between himself and mankind, one that is pleasing to the creator and beneficial to creation.

1 Cor 13: St. Paul is not interested in romantic, rose-tinted dreams. He wants to give his congregation a blueprint that will enable them again and again to rekindle that initial passion, that fire. If you really want to love God and your neighbour, you can easily prove it by showing patience, constancy, and humility, and by keeping your own feelings in check. Then, and only then, will the individual Christian and the congregation as a whole be able to remain true to their vocation and build on the keystones of faith, hope and love, to protect and develop the world in the spirit of God.

Heb 2: Salvation is not a walk in the park; it involves suffering and pain. That makes it harder for the Saviour, but at the same time, it makes what he does all the more profound. And he does not do it for his own sake, but solely for the other’s sake. At the same time, he breaks down every barrier that separates us from God, one person from another, even barriers to our own true selves. This brings an end to all estrangement; outward and inward reconciliation takes place. And that creates a big family – shaped by the selflessness of the Saviour – a family whose attitudes and lives reflect, continue and disseminate the Saviour’s values and commandments.

Luke 2: The encounter between the young family and the two old people has a number of dimensions: the tenacious perseverance of Simeon and Hannah, trusting that God’s promise will indeed be fulfilled; the truly affectionate contact between the generations and the mutual trust they show, the looking beyond Israel alone to include the people to whom the true light of Jesus is revealed. All of this serves to encourage us to seek that light: because it is worth every effort, even suffering, to carry that light into the world.

Aspects of Sustainability

Respect for the holy (Ez, Luke)

Even though the immediate experience of God normally eludes us, God is still present and guides us through the rules and commandments he has laid down. But this demands respect and self-restraint on our part, because only when we put up with the limits set by God and keep our demands modest can our lives really be successful, can we grow and thrive.

Humankind as one family (Heb, Luke)

God does not want to be separated from humankind and decries our human habit of dividing the world into “them” and “us”. He makes every effort to reconcile us with himself and each other. He wants the different generations neither to squabble nor to live entirely separate lives, but always to connect and grow in solidarity with one another, helping each other to preserve the light of life. Because that light does not shine for a particular group or for a single nation or people. It wants to spread out more and more, so that all humanity will grow into one family.

Perseverance leads to life (Mal, 1 Cor, Luke 2)

When we wait for something, we always risk coming to the end of our patience at some point. Against this background, the readings advise us to call to mind again and again that initial spark and enthusiasm and the beauty of our vocation. The path of faith may be crossed by suffering and pain, but hope and love are always stronger – so strong, in fact, that they can continually nourish our faith in the new that is to come.

by Dr. Joachim Feldes