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Selfless sacrifices are the cost of every great love

The cross of salvation, Jesus's death proof of great, everlasting love, Bishop says

Published: February 13, 2024   
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple 40 days after his birth, and as we see in today's readings, this was a powerful moment in the life of the Holy Family. 

They went to the Temple to comply with the Jewish law that required that on the 40th day of life — which for Jesus was today — every male that opens his mother's womb be consecrated to the Lord. This rite is called the Pidyon ha-Ben, "the ransom of the firstborn," and harkens back to the 10th and final plague that finally forced Pharaoh to free his Hebrew slaves: the death of the first born of Egypt at the same time that God saved the first born of Israel, boys who — because they had been rescued — became God's special possession and thus the rite of the Ransom of the First Born. 

The ransom to be paid by poor people was "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons," just as we see in today's Gospel.

Today is also the day when we bless candles in honor of Christ — who is the light of the nations and the light of our life — asking God to continue to rescue us from the power of darkness and lead us along the right path, until we are finally enveloped in eternal light. 

"Isn't it true that every great love has this element of selfless sacrifice that is the cost of love?"

In today's Gospel, we have two elderly persons who — full of the light of the Holy Spirit — gave testimony of what God had revealed to them regarding this 40-day-old baby: that Jesus was the Messiah. Simeon took him in his arms and blessed God, saying (about Jesus), "my eyes have seen your salvation… a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel." 

And Ana "spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem." Mary and Joseph were amazed by what they were saying about their child. But it was not all happiness and light. Simeon had to warn Mary about the suffering that would be the cost of our salvation. 

He said the child would be "a sign that would be contradicted," and he told her that — figuratively — "you yourself a sword will pierce." Jesus' cross will also be Mary's cross: Jesus shedding his blood and Mary shedding her tears. 

That cross, which was at the same time painful and salvific, was proclaimed the day Jesus was presented in the temple. He will pay the price of our ransom — our Pidyon ha-Ben — whether we happen to be the first born of our families or not. The price he will pay will be a sacrifice of love greater than could ever be expressed in words.

Isn't it true that every great love has this element of selfless sacrifice that is the cost of love? We give thanks to God for all the undeserved blessings we have received from the Lord through our families and friends. And we ask Christ to continue to be the light that guides us along the right path until we are finally enveloped in eternal light


Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Feb. 2 for the Presentation of the Lord.

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