Homily for the Entrance of the Theotokos: a witness on offering our best to the Lord

Homily Notes for the Feast
  • Joachim and Anna had always wanted and worked for a child, but without success. One day, the priest at the temple refused Joachim’s offering because he had no children. He and his wife turned to the Lord in prayer, promising to offer any child he gave them back to the Lord. Their prayer was answered. Mary was born (we celebrated this on September 8th, it is the first feast of the Liturgical year).
  • When Mary was a young girl – around three years old – Joachim and Anna followed through on their promise and took her to the temple to stay.
  • The icon shows what happened: the young virgins led the way with torches and singing. Mary ran forward to be embraced by the priest Zachariah. Mary was then brought up in the temple, nourished by angels, growing in holiness and love of the Lord.
  • [later, when she was too old to remain, they found an old widower who would protect her and allow her to maintain the same life, dedicated to chastity and holiness, that she had embraced in the temple. This man was Joseph. We will celebrate the next part of their story, the birth of Jesus Christ, in just a few weeks].
This is a remarkable story, and there is much we can learn from its spirit and details. Let me reinforce the pertinent details: there was a couple who wanted something – a child – very badly. They worked and prayed for it. Then when their prayer was answered, they rejoiced and offered the child back to the Lord. They took this thing that was the culmination of their hopes and dreams and offered her to God in the temple and allowed her to be raised by others there.
There is no doubt that their example is one that we should follow. We must offer up our children – along with everything else in our lives – to God. Nor is this simply an idea designed to develop a sense of thanksgiving in our hearts. We are to literally bring the best of everything we have to the temple and leave it there. Our time. The money we earn. Our children. (no we are not going to set up a boarding school at the rectory – please take your children home with you at the end of the day!). This does something more than develop a sense of gratitude in our hearts for the blessings God has given us: it allows God to work within our hearts. He takes those things and uses them to bless us and our lives. Not only does the money we give up get used for noble purposes, our entire budgets are blessed through this offering. Not only are we transported towards God while we offer up our time in prayer and worship, all the time in our lives are blessed. Not only are are children improved by their time spent in the temple, our families and communities are blessed by their improvement and changed by this offering.
There is a reason why we go against worldly reason and the custom in much of the Christian world to baptize our children while they are quite young and bring them to Communion every week throughout their childhood: we are offering them to the Lord, thanking Him for them, and allowing Him to protect their purity and to prepare them for the challenges that are to come. A love and devotion to the Lord and His Church is the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful life. This will not happen on its own. Parents and godparents know this and do everything they can to ensure that their children grow up knowing about God, growing in His mysteries, and desiring to live a good and holy life. This is not about religion, but about setting up their children for true success. They know that the most important decision an adult ever makes is not about colleges or careers, but about living a life in God through Jesus Christ. Their first goal is not their child’s happiness or success in sports or school, but that they become holy as God is holy; resting assured that true success and happiness are the automatic fruits not of a good education or making the traveling team, but of sainthood. In short, we set our children up for success by allowing Christ to live in their lives. So we do what Joachim and Anna did: we bring them Church and allow the Church to teach and mold them.
What comes next in the story? What happens to Mary as a result of the counter-cultural way her parents raised her? Did she suffer because they made sure God came first in her life? No. She found success. She was ready for the real world when it came.
Nine years after her entrance into the temple, she made the most important decision of her life; a decision our children will also be called to make: “will you accept the Lord Jesus Christ into your life”. Because of the way she had been raised, the answer that came flowed naturally and humbly from her heart. She said yes. And now every generation calls her blessed.
We want the same for our children. So we take the best of what we have, and we offer them up to the Lord. May they embrace the Lord just as she did.