Eight days later Jesus’ parents did for him what the Law of Moses commands.
Today we listen to the shortest Gospel reading of the year; one sentence in length. Yet this reading contains so much of what Jesus is all about.
After eight days every male child who was descended from Abraham was to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant with God and in order to be full participants in God’s community.
The milah – circumcision – was performed anytime between sunrise and sunset on the eighth day from when the child was born. Mary brought her Son to the place where the circumcision was to be performed and Joseph likely performed the ceremony. Circumcision in Jesus’ time was much the same as it had been in Abraham’s day. It was ritualistic and less formal than it is today.
Now Jesus, being God, did not need circumcision, yet He went through it. We can say that His circumcision is more than something He accepted, it is something He resolved to do. It was His purpose, God’s resolution, that the requirements the old law be observed so that the new law, the new covenant would be ushered in.
For practical purposes alone Jesus had to be circumcised. Otherwise, the community of Israel would have excluded Him from the Synagogue and Temple. He would not have been able to bring God’s new covenant to God’s chosen people if He was seen as against the Law.
Beyond the practical, Jesus took up in this act the fullness of humanity. God came, born of a woman and took up all of what we are. God would live and experience the fullness of human loss, sufferings, pain, and temptation. He would also enjoy the fullness of human joy. He, like us, would not live immune or somehow above the reality of human nature. He came to show us what we can be, what our opportunities and possibilities are.
We stand at the beginning of a new year. It is that moment when we take up opportunities and possibilities. They may be practical – lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more. They should be something more.
In reflecting on the opportunities and possibilities of the New Year let us unite ourselves with the Lord. Let us recognize the important lesson He taught – the fullness of our humanity has every chance at perfection because of Jesus and only in Jesus. Like Jesus we will spend time in joyful celebration and happiness in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Like Him we will be challenged by human loss, sufferings, pain, and temptation. God resolved to save us. Let us be resolved to do the Father’s will, and become more and more like His Son. He has freed us in the new covenant to do exactly that.