In the first reading we have good news for people who may well have just got back into their own land after being exiled by a foreign power. They may have felt that their God had abandoned them – though can any one of them deny abandoning God in one way or another? However in this pssage God says “behold I am sending my messenger”. in the Hewbrew original it would be read as “Hi-ni so-le-ah ma-la-ki” and you might recognise the name of the (author of the) book – Malachi – the messenger. But the message is a forecast of one like a envoy being sent to sort things out – and this will seem harsh – like a refiner or thorough polisher. If we apply this to the coming to us of Jesus then if we are honest we expect that there will be difficulties for us as well as welcome – for we all have something good about us and also somthing that is ‘disappointing’ for God.
The second reading from what is called Hebrews, gives a quite early understanding of Jesus from a Jewish standpoint but with understanding also of non-Jewish thinking and viewpoint at the time. He emphasised that Jesus is really human – using the phrase flesh and blood to express this humanity which we all have in common with Him. Not the flesh and blood ideas that catholic christians especially associate with their celebrations of the last supper but Jesus shares in our humnaity. He was tested and temted as all are, but never gave in to temptation and so death was a transportation of this human into the afterlife with God – and as such is like a high priest among us humans.
The gospel is taken from Luke who writes something about Jesus that fits in well with what the letter to the Hebrews had been saying. Jesus is a real human and indeed a Jew and so goes through the natural procedures for a Jewish baby. But Luke has this story of the praise of the baby but also an expression of Jesus’ true humanity -facing dificulties to come. And the recognition of Jesus by Simeon and aged Anna in the temple in Jerusalem. We read part of Luke’s narrative of the birth and infancy of Jesus. In the alternative shorter reading we have part of the story generally called the Presentation. We must remember that the Gospel is ‘Good News;’ it is the good news about Jesus and made available for all, and that’s what we must look for in it. Luke is not too familiar with all the rules and rituals associated with the birth of the first male child to a family; he seems to confuse the purification of the mother, requiring sacrifice of two birds, with the redemption of the boy child at the cost of two shekels. But he stresses time and again that they did all that was required of Jewish parents, for Jesus was a Jew who fulfilled all the central requirements of that religion. But Jesus was also the one who brought the fulfillment of all the expectations of the Jewish religion by his life and for all of us to aim for. As the poem of Simeon states, this child brings the consolation expected by the Jews (referred to in the later chapters of Isaiah) and the glory for all people – and a light for the Gentiles too. The details of Luke’s story here recall something of those about the birth of Samuel to Hannah (1 Sam 1:20-28). So, the message for us might be consolation and glory, but it also includes the struggle of conformity to what is right. The longer reading includes a prophetic statement from Simeon about this difficulty and general problems. At the time of Luke’s writing of this, towards thw end of the 1st century AD the followers of Jesus had already experienced arguments about conformity to the Jewish requirements and persecution from the Roman secular, authorities and something of this has been with the history of the Christians ever since – problems with church regulations, with societies’ standards and with the weakness of our own selves.
See Jeffs Jottings – Flesh and blood