The Lord said to Moses: Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine. Exodus 13:1-2 (NRSV)
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him (Jesus) up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Luke 2:22-24 (NRSV)
The theme of giving one’s first fruits to God is not a new one. Today at times we find it difficult to give back to God what He has first given us, but imagine dedicating your first born to God. 1 Samuel 1 tells the story of Hannah, a woman who prayed for a son , who she named Samuel, and she dedicated him to God. As soon as he was weaned (at that time Samuel was probably a three or four year old) Hannah left her son at the temple to become a priest of God.
Jesus is God’s Only Child, yet God surrendered Him to a life of service and ultimately sacrifice for the salvation of humanity.
It would be hard to imagine as a parent – and I am the mother of an only son- to simply leave a small child at a tender age to a life of service. What about the child’s choice of vocation? What about a mother’s longing for her child, who arguably still needs a mother at such a young age? My son is an adult, and at times I find it hard as a mother to let go and surrender him to the grace and mercy of God just in him living his daily life. A mother’s instinct is to hang on, to protect, to shield her offspring from pain or hurt.
I can’t imagine the emotions that Hannah and later, Mary, must have felt knowing that their sons were going to be forever dedicated to God’s service, and that they could not keep them from the hardships and sacrifice that a life in service ultimately bring.
Did Mary know the way Jesus’ earthly life would end?
Would that knowledge have changed her mind?