In this section you will hear about Mary and Joseph observing the Mosaic Laws, dedicating their son to God and later, including him as a 12-year-old in the Passover celebrations at the great temple in Jerusalem. I invite you to connect these stories to your experiences of sacraments of initiation—Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation—and/or other rituals and rites of passage such as bris, bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, pilgrimages of any and every kind, be it to Lourdes or Jerusalem or Mecca or the Taj Mahal. In addition, you may want to discuss your sensibilities about biblical prophecies and other forms of prophecy be they premonitions or hopes or expectations for yourself and for children in your life.
Let’s explore with greater emphasis the benefits and burdens of rituals in our lives. Sometimes we are drawn to them, sometimes they evoke ambivalence, and sometimes we anticipate them and flee! Yet, we would be hard pressed not to allow some concrete explanations of their value. In essence, rituals make public the inner personal dynamics and choices people make. They affirm our inter-connectedness, that we belong to a people, a group, a faith or country, and, in terms of Christian Sacraments, that we belong to God and are part of Jesus’ story, perpetuating his love and truth throughout our lives.
Rituals make evident that we depend upon one another for support in life’s passages with all their corresponding joys and sorrows. I hope you take some time to use Luke’s brief but richly condensed portrait of Jesus’ childhood as a springboard for appreciating and understanding rituals in your lives.
One of Luke’s primary purposes here is to show how Jesus and his parents are rooted in Judaism and are faithfully attentive to the God of Israel. We also have here a wonderful example of the importance of multi-generations of faith and how the young and the old benefit from interacting with one another. Many complain we no longer have true wisdom figures like Simeon and Anna among our seniors today. Is that true or are we simply not paying attention to the elderly? Or, if our seniors are feeling weary, maybe it’s because we do not draw them out, energizing them with our inquiries and interest. And as for Simeon’s and Anna’s words—would that we all long for peace, consolation and the redemption of the world as they did. What do we need from one another today to keep that hope alive?