The Linked Parishes of Pope John XXIII & Christ The King
2020-21 Faith Formation Program
Session 4 - The Infancy Narratives - There's More!!!
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The Infancy Narratives
Last month we ended the Infancy Narrative lesson with Matthew’s account of the visit by the Magi, and Luke’s account of the visit by the shepherds to the newborn, Jesus.
However, the Infancy Narratives do not end with these stories.
By looking at the rest of the story, we will be introduced to...
...the Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke
...a process of understanding these scripture stories that lead to the basis of our Catholic Faith.
It's BIG Words Time!!!!
is the study and educated interpretation of the bible based upon historical facts, ancient original languages and culture as presented in scripture, and other resources.
is the explanation and defense of the doctrines (beliefs), dogmas (undisputed truths), and traditions (rituals, sacraments, ways of thinking) of the Catholic Church that are based upon the Bible, and early Church records.
In the Vatican archives, the Catholic Church possesses the oldest known Biblical texts. The Codex Vaticanus dates back to the mid 4th century. This enables people who intensely study scripture to understand its true meaning.
As we move through the rest of the Infancy stories, you will see how this information and these techniques were applied to help us understand the events
To better understand what happened next in the infancy story, it would be helpful to know a little about the ruler at that time.
Now let's continue with
Shortly after the Magi visited Jesus and his mother, they were warned in a dream not to report back to Herod, who lived in Jerusalem.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way. MT 2:12
Herod wanted to know where and who this new king was. His intentions were not to honor him, but destroy him.
Bethlehem is only about 6 miles from Jerusalem.
God the Father Was Watching
Soon after the Magi left Mary and Jesus, Joseph was visited by an angel in a dream that warned him about Herod’s intentions:
When they had departed, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet (Hosea: 11, 1) might be fulfilled, ‘ Out of Egypt I called my son.’ MT 2:13-15
This area was not under Herod’s control. Though it is only about 40 miles from Bethlehem, it was also common place for people to seek refuge from Herod’s oppression and brutality in Palestine.
However, it too was under Roman rule since 31 B.C with the defeat of Cleopatra and Mark Antony after a major battle. Surprisingly, Rome allowed many of the Egyptian customs, and institutions to continue while it took control of Egypt.
No details are given in Matthew about what Joseph, Mary and Jesus did while in Egypt, or where they lived. There is also no indication of how long they were there. Because of the date of Herod’s death, however, it is assumed that the time was a few months to about 1 year.
In Old Cairo, Egypt, there is the Church of Abu Serga, which is the site where Joseph, Mary and Jesus are said to have stayed while in Egypt.
As stated above, Herod was a tyrant and was easily threatened. He wanted total control, and he wasn’t about to take the chance that a young child would take his kingdom away from him. Once he realized that the Magi had returned to their homeland without reporting back to him, he became enraged and ordered all boys in Bethlehem, two years old boys and under, to be killed.
(Remember, the Magi took almost 2 years to find Jesus, so 2 would have been about Jesus’ age)
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
There are no details about the number of children killed, or how long this attack lasted. These children are considered to be the first holy martyrs for Jesus. It is also a foreshadowing of what is going to happen to many people under Roman rule and beyond, because of their faith in Jesus.
As Catholics, we sadly recall this event each year
The Feast of the Holy Innocents
Sadly, not everything in the Infancy Narratives has a good outcome.
This event is a reminder that evil will seek to destroy good, and that way too often innocent lives are destroyed because of this battle.
Can you think of anything that you have learned about in history where this has occurred?
Do you know of any examples where innocent lives are being destroyed today?
“When Herod had died, behold the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise and take the child and his mother and go back to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.’ He rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel……” MT 2:19-20
Because Herod’s son, Archelaus had assumed power, Joseph, out of caution, decided to return to the region of Galilee to the town of Nazareth, where Archelaus was not the ruler.
Does Nazareth sound familiar to you?
It is where it all started with the Angel Gabriel announcement to Mary that she was chosen to be Jesus’ mother.
Now let's look at the conclusion of
There are only two primary events in the remainder of the Luke's Infancy Narratives:
1. The Circumcision of Jesus
2. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
Both of the events happened after Jesus was born. Mary and Joseph were devout and faithful Jews. As such, they participated in religious rituals and traditions, and they were deeply committed to the laws of Israel, that were handed down through the centuries.
Among these traditions and laws was the practice of circumcision.
The origin of this practice goes back to the covenant (sacred, everlasting agreement) between Abraham and God. This sacred covenant guaranteed that God would not ever abandon Abraham and his descendents; that He would remain their God, even if they strayed from Him.
Luke gives no details about Jesus’ circumcision. Only that it happened. It was not necessary for it to be done in the Temple. A member of the Jewish community was assigned to perform this ritual, which also included announcing the child’s name.
Abraham is considered the father of the Jewish nation of Israel. As a sign of this covenant, God commanded Abraham that all males be circumcised. It was a permanent reminder of this covenant.
Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
The Presentation of Jesus in Temple is the last Infancy Narratives in Luke.
Being devout Jews, Joseph and Mary fulfilled all the laws and customs commanded of them and so on the fortieth day after Jesus was born, they brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, and formally presented him to the Lord. Jesus was the firstborn son that was born to Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather. (This does not imply, that there were more children born to Mary.) Jesus was brought to the Temple to officially be recognized by the Jewish Community.
There's a lot happening in that short video. Let's take a closer look at a few things that took place, but could use a deeper explanation.
Rite of Redemption.
Jesus was brought to the Temple to officially be recognized by the Jewish Community and to go through the the Rite of Redemption. This rite is not easy to explain because it is such a foreign concept to us.
The firstborn son was automatically dedicated to the priestly service of God.
Scriptural scholars have different opinions about what Joseph’s payment would have been. The preferred method of payment would have been 5 shekels, but in Luke only 2 turtledoves, which is the offering from the poor, are mentioned (Luke 2: 24).
Whatever the payment method and amount, the intention would be to use it as a ransom payment or buy back from God’s service for Jesus. This Mosaic Law is proclaimed in Exodus 13: 11-16.
Rite of Purification
While at the Temple with Joseph and Jesus, Mary was also required to undergo the rite of purification because she gave birth to a male child.
Throughout the forty days after Jesus was born, Mary was prohibited from participating in everyday community life. She was in essence, quarantined.
Ritual baths were a common practice and ritual, and actual bathing areas were created outside the Temple. Mary had to undergo a bathing ritual.
Once she did this and presented the offering of two turtledoves, which is the offering by the poor, she was able to fully enter back into the Jewish community. (It is possible that the purification payment and the redemption payment was combined into one).
While they were in the Temple a very devout man, Simeon, who was filled with the Holy Spirit recognized that this was no ordinary family or ordinary baby. Simeon approached them and taking the child in his arms proclaimed:
“ Now Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which You prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people, Israel.”
Through the Holy Spirit, Simeon humbly gave thanks to God, grateful that a promise had been fulfilled. He had in his arms the messiah, the anointed one of God who would save all people from their sins. Simeon would not see Jesus grow into adulthood, and fulfill His ministry and purpose, as he was old. It was enough for Him to know that God had entered the world through His Son, Jesus.
Simeon, approaching Mary continued with this exhortation:
“ Behold this child is destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, and your heart will be pierced by a sword so that the thoughts of many will be revealed.”
What Simeon was revealing is that Jesus would not have an easy journey, and neither would Mary. Instead of being a unifier, Jesus will be responsible for great divisions. Not everyone will welcome Jesus or believe in Him. His own Jewish community, and eventually all of Israel will not accept Him. Instead, the non-Jewish people, who were not the chosen people of God (Israel), will be the ones who will accept Jesus as Lord.
Mary too, being so intimately a part of Jesus life, knowing who is really was, will have much to suffer. This would eventually lead her to the foot of His cross.
When Joseph, Mary, and Jesus left the Temple they returned to Nazareth.
Luke gives no details about their lives there and only mentions that :
“ The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” (Luke 2: 40)
NOW THAT YOU'VE HEARD THE WHOLE STORY
There are many common features that connect the Infancy Narratives of Matthew and Luke. Three of the main ones are:
1. The intervention and appearance of Angels.
2. The need to move quickly, once the angelic intervention happened.
3. The deep trust in God, and obedience to Him, even when it meant life would never be the same again.
Is it hard to trust?
How do you think you would have reacted?
Have you ever been in a situation where you have had to trust someone, even when you had doubts or were afraid?
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
An important take away from the Infancy Narratives is that God came to earth, NOT as a pompous KING, but as a vulnerable child, taking on our humanity. Jesus was touchable, connecting with the ordinary people. A person’s wealth, societal status, education, gender, nationality was not an obstacle for God’s redemptive love. Everyone, not just the people of Israel, were included in this New everlasting Covenant of salvation through Jesus.
Another important point is that Jesus was born to Mary, a simple but holy young woman, who trusted in God. This trust required much strength and faith. Her challenges began right form the beginning, because she could have easily been publically rejected, and humiliated, but Joseph being a man of God listened to the angel’s revelation about Mary in a dream, and he too trusted God.
In today’s society where people require “proof”, and our faith in God has very much been pushed aside and in many cases discouraged, would God be able to connect and affect humanity the way He did 2000+ years ago?
God entered our world at the right time, changing it forever. Now, it is our turn to trust and listen. This requires a personal decision to enter into a relationship with God. This relationship cannot be one sided, it requires a “YES” from us.
By learning more about your faith, you open the door to that relationship. By prayer, and awareness of God’s reality you open the door too. For some people this relationship occurs quickly, but for many others it is much slower, and can be a struggle. God is patient, and patience is a virtue that is needed for ourselves as we journey seeking and experiencing God. But, we need to willfully desire and move ahead on this journey. Indifference is not an option!