The story of Jesus’ birth is unsettling. According to Luke, Jesus is born in a village in which there’s no place to receive him. The shepherds have had to look for him through all Bethlehem until they found him in a remote place, resting in a manger, with no witnesses except his parents.
Seemingly Luke feels it necessary to construct a second story in which the child is rescued from anonymity in order to be presented publicly. What place is more appropriate than the Temple of Jerusalem so that Jesus would be solemnly welcomed as the Messiah sent by God to God’s people?
But once again, Luke’s story ends up unsettling. When the parents come to the Temple with the child, none of the high priests or other religious leaders come out to meet him. In just a few years they will be the ones who will hand him over to be crucified. Jesus doesn’t find a welcome in that religion that’s secure in itself and forgetful of the suffering of the poor.
Nor is he welcomed by the teachers of the Law who preach their «human traditions» in the plazas of that Temple. Years later they will reject Jesus for healing the sick, breaking the law of the Sabbath. Jesus doesn’t find a welcome in doctrines and religious traditions that don’t help us live a more dignified and healthy life.
The ones who welcome Jesus and recognize him as the One Sent by God are two elderly people of simple faith and open heart who have lived their lives awaiting God’s salvation. Their names seem to suggest that they are symbolic characters. The old man is called Simeon («the Lord has listened»), the old woman is called Anna («Gift»). They represent so many people of simple faith who in every village of all times live with their trust placed in God.
These two belong to the more healthy environments of Israel. They are known as the «Group of Yahweh’s Poor». They are people who have nothing but their faith in God. They don’t think about their fate or their welfare. They only hope from God for the «consolation» that the people need, the «liberation» that they’ve been looking for throughout the generations, the “light” that enlightens the shadows in which the people of the earth live. Now they feel that their hopes are being fulfilled in Jesus.
This simple faith that hopes in God for the definitive salvation is the faith of the majority. A faith that’s barely formed, that is almost always formulated in awkward and distracted prayers, that is expressed in barely orthodox formulas, that is awakened above all in difficult times of hardship. A faith that God has no problem understanding and welcoming.
Jose Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf