February 2, 2020 (Sunday) - Explain the Rules - A Reflection on Luke 2:22-32

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

I have often spoken about how often Jesus broke the rules, which might seem to suggest that it is a good thing to do this, but it isn’t because Jesus followed them much more often than he broke them. And he learned this from his parents, who took him to be circumcised and presented in the temple when he was little, in observance of the “law of Moses.”

They could very well have said, “We don’t need to follow the rules when it comes to Jesus because they don’t apply to him,” but they did nothing of the sort. They observed the Jewish law, and Jesus would go on to observe it as well. Although not much is known of his life until he was thirty, the fact that Jesus went to John the Baptist to be baptized before he began his ministry is an indication of this fact.

From this, we can infer that we need to follow the life of the Church. “Rules” are laid down for a reason, and for the most part, these reasons are good. However, when one follows these “rules” without understanding the purpose behind them, the “spirit” of the rules gets lost, and we become legalistic, stressing on blind obedience.

Consider this. A married couple who are deeply in love hold hands before they eat their evening meal as a sign of unity and bonding between themselves and God. They use this time to thank God for each other and the blessings they have received. The couple has children, and they continue this practice, now involving their children in it. It is a good practice and serves to create a sense of love and gratitude.

A generation down, however, the children are told to hold hands without being told why, and scolded if they exhibit any reluctance to make a prayer of thanksgiving. What was a practice of “love” now becomes a practice of “law” and the entire meaning of the act is lost. This is what made Jesus upset, not the rules themselves. This is what will make any right thinking Christian upset as well. So what’s the solution? Always explain the meaning of things, so we always get to the heart of things.

So, let us raise our children in the faith, making sure they always know WHY they are being told to do something. The increased clarity will deepen our own faith.  Try it and see.