Presentation of Mary: Docility and Joy

11.21.17  Tues. wk. 33 – O.T. (I) Presentation of BVM
1st Rdg  Maccabees  6:  18 – 31
Gospel  Luke:  19: 1 – 10

At that time †Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.  Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who †Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature.  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see †Jesus, who was about to pass that way.  When he reached the place, †Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”  And he came down quickly and received him with joy.  When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”   But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”  And †Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.  For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

The Gospel of the Lord.


Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                       Presentation of Mary: Docility and Joy

Today’s memorial: ‘The Presentation of Mary,’ commemorates that moment when Mary, as a three-year-old, was presented into the Temple.  She was dedicated to God in the Temple in Jerusalem.  There is a tradition that Mary, with Joachim and Anna, her parents, lived just down the street from where the Temple was located.  In fact, there is a Church called ‘The Church of Joachim and Anna’ in the old city of Jerusalem, which supposedly was built upon the ruins of the house where Joachim and Anna lived and where Mary was raised as a child.

There is no Scriptural account of the event of ‘The Presentation of Mary.’   We learn of this through the writings of someone named ‘James of Jerusalem,’ in a Second Century Christian document.  This ancient document gives details of Mary’s birth and her formative years with her parents.  The narrative was written probably from the oral tradition, passed down through the Christian Community during the first two centuries.  This feast teaches us of Mary’s holiness from the time of her Immaculate Conception (which we will celebrate on December 8) to her Assumption into heaven.  It highlights and praises Mary’s Holiness.

When we reflect on the life of Mary, we recall her responses to two important events in her life – her response to the angel Gabriel and to the news that she had been chosen to be the mother of the most-high God – when Mary replied: “Behold, I am the handmade of the Lord, let it be done to me as you say.” (Luke 1:38)  Mary responded with faith and docility to God’s word.  Whatever plans she may have had for her life, were not important because all would be sacrificed in obedience to God’s will.

Secondly, when visiting her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John.  Elizabeth said to Mary: “Blessed are you who believed what was spoken to you by the Lord, would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45)  And Mary responded with the beautiful ‘Canticle of Joy’: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant…” (Luke 1:46-48)  Docility and joy are truly important virtues that define the life of Mary – docility and joy!   And we recognize these virtues in two other people that we hear about in our readings today – Eleazar and Zacchaeus.

In the Second Book of Maccabees, the elder Eleazar, was willing to sacrifice his life in docility and obedience to the will of God, because he understood God’s commandment very clearly: “I am the Lord your God, you shall not have false gods before me.” (Ex.20:3)  Eleazar understood and he was obedient.  But he did not obey with morbid sadness or reluctance, but rather, there was a joy about him.  He said: “I go to my death with joy.”  And we read: “Eleazar went immediately to the instrument of torture…He died, leaving in his death, a model of courage and an unforgettable example of the virtue.” (Macc.6:25-31)  There was a joyful surrender of his life – out of love for God and God’s Commandments and to be a good example to the younger generations (just as Mary had proclaimed: “The greatness of the Lord,” in her surrender to God’s will.)

Then, in the Gospel we find the tax collector – Zacchaeus. He expressed a joyful surrender of his wealth.  In fact the Gospel reading tells us he came down the tree with joy in his heart.  And Zacchaeus said to †Jesus: “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I shall repay it, four times over.” (Luke 19:8)  Standing before †Jesus – Zacchaeus was transformed.  He did not hesitate to surrender much of his wealth as an expression of faith and trust in †Jesus (just as Mary did, when she said: “I am the maidservant of the Lord, let it be done to me as you say”).  And †Jesus responded by saying to Zacchaeus: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too, is a descendent of Abraham.” (Luke 19:9)  There is no greater compliment that could be paid to a Jew (especially one who was despised as tax collectors were) than to be compared to Abraham.  That was a great honor!  Abraham was a man of faith who also was obedient to God, to the point of surrender, even willing to surrender his own son.

So these two virtues – docility and joy – are exemplified by Mary, and they are essential in our journey to holiness and sanctity.  To be obedient to God’s will at all times, and to live with a joyful trust that: ‘All Will Be Well’ – when we place ourselves in the loving and gentle hands of God.

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.