There can be a temptation to think of Jesus as a teddy bear. That is to say, we can think of Jesus only as that soft cuddly bear that makes no demands upon us and always makes us feel better. And perhaps it is during the season of Christmas that such a temptation becomes more prominent. After all, we are focused on the cute cuddly baby. Even non-baby corporations such as E*TRADE have discovered the value of a baby.
The first reading reminds us that to really be a follower of Jesus means ordering lives around a relationship that impacts everything we do. But any truly authentic loving relationship places demands upon the lover. Obviously parents can feel a great deal of fulfillment and happiness and completeness in the birth of their children. But at the same time, because of their love, there were now demands of care that were not there previously.
So it is in our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is a loving relationship that sometimes places demands upon us. We cannot simply live by doing whatever we please whenever we want to. Rather, because of the inherent dignity we all possess us human beings made in God’s image and likeness, it is imperative that we see that same dignity which resides in others. As such, we simply cannot ignore the needs of others. As such, we must work to make the kingdom of God real. As such, we must embrace an economic theory which requires people to share with the least vulnerable in society.
The gospel reading in a powerful way reminds us that we do this precisely recognition that we have been all given much by God. And as people who have received much from God, in fact everything we have and everything we are, then we must be grateful by giving to God with God is already given to us. To be sure, God cannot be outdone in generosity.
Mary and Joseph recognize that their loving relationship with each other, with Jesus, and with their God, places demands upon them. As faithful Jews, Joseph and Mary follow the law by presenting Jesus in the Temple. They follow the Commandments of God, quite simply because they love God. And so it should be with us.